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Battleground Misfires on Voter Turnout Memo

Oops. Battleground Texas, a liberal group working to boost Democratic hopes in conservative Texas, admitted Friday that its boasts of increased early voter turnout were wrong.

Jeremy Bird speaking at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sep. 28, 2013


Battleground Texas, a liberal group working to boost Democratic hopes in conservative Texas, admitted Friday that it was wrong in claiming that early voter turnout in the state's 70 largest counties was rising dramatically from the last gubernatorial election in 2010.

In a memo early Friday by Battleground senior adviser Jeremy Bird, a former top field organizer for Barack Obama, the Democratic group claimed early voting had increased by more than a third so far and that Democratically leaning voters — non-whites in particular — were turning out in much larger numbers than four years ago.

But that analysis fell apart when it became clear, based on an inspection of figures from the secretary of state's office, that Battleground was using flawed data from 2010. 

"The county data from 2010 was incomplete," said Battleground spokeswoman Erica Sackin. She said the group was "clarifying and updating" the memo from Bird, which was taken down from the group's website. Since the flawed data was used in calculating the demographic breakdowns, the big percentage of non-white voters said to be turning out can't be trusted, either.

In its memo, a copy of which is posted on the Texas Tribune website, Battleground indicated that 1,092,006 Texans in the 70 largest counties turned out to vote through the 10th day of early voting in 2010. But figures from the secretary of state's website show more voters — 1,283,229 to be exact — had turned out in just the 15 largest counties over the same period.

Using the lower baseline from 2010 produced a seeming 36 percent jump in the number of people showing up to vote, astronomically higher than the turnout rate in the 15 largest counties being tracked on the secretary of state's website. 

Those figures show 1,291,393 voted through Wednesday, an increase of 0.6 percent, or 8,164 people. Because the state has grown and added more voters to the rolls, the turnout rate has gone down so far in those counties. It was down 6.6 percent as of Wednesday and slightly more, or 7.2 percent, as of Thursday.

Friday is the last day of early voting, and voters can still make their voices heard on Election Day, so it's impossible to know what total turnout will be until polls close. Polls have consistently shown the Democrats, who haven't won a statewide election in two decades, are headed for yet another rout at the hands of the GOP. 

Republican Party chairman Steve Munisteri could hardly contain his glee at Battleground's flub.

"When we saw that memo we were laughing about it at lunch," Munisteri said. "I don’t know where their memo came from other than from out of their imagination. They either don’t know what they’re doing or someone was intentionally trying to mislead. Either way it was bad."  

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