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Early Voting Turnout Doesn’t Look Good for HERO Supporters

With early voting closing Friday and election day looming on Tuesday, supporters of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance have good reason to be concerned about its survival.

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AP Photo/The Houston Chronicle, Gary Coronado

With early voting closing Friday and election day looming on Tuesday, supporters of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance have good reason to be concerned about its survival.

Our own Mimi Swartz wrote extensively on HERO, and why Houston needs it:

The ordinance is designed to protect fifteen classes of people—on the basis of race, ethnicity, age, military service, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation—from discrimination in housing and employment and the like. Houston is the only big city that doesn’t have one, and the only city in Texas that’s lacking one. It’s designed not only to protect against discrimination but to allow for speedy redress without, literally, building a federal case, which can take forever to resolve.

If you haven’t been following along, HERO’s opponents have focused on only one of the protected classes in attack campaigns: transgender women (described as “troubled men,” by former Astros great Lance Berkman in a radio ad), who they claim will use the ordinance to slip into women’s restrooms in order to prey on vulnerable women and girls.

But despite public attacks from baseball players, HERO’s prospects looked decent at the beginning of the month. According to one poll, 43 percent of Houstonians supported keeping HERO, 37 percent were opposed, and 18 percent undecided, with a margin for error of around 4 percent. That put HERO’s chances of survival at a toss up. With the race that tight, local experts believe that HERO’s survival hinges on above average turnout in Houston’s more socially progressive districts and younger voters.

So far, we’ve seen the opposite.

The early voting turnout has been high: On Thursday, the Houston Chronicle reported that about 133,000 voters had either dropped by a polling station or cast their ballot by mail. That is more people than people who bothered to vote—early or otherwise—in 2011, and at least 20,000 more early voters than any cycle since 2003. As the Chronicle’s Mike Morris pointed out, that could be a bad sign for HERO, as Houston’s progressives always vote in high numbers. It’s a logical conclusion that this year’s boost is coming from voters fixed elsewhere on the political spectrum.

A graph published earlier this week by the Chronicle offers further support for that suspicion. It’s conservative suburbs like Kingwood, Clear Lake and the Memorial area that have seen both the greatest increase in turnout and highest overall totals. What’s more, those voters are overwhelmingly older, and that’s the one demographic most unified in opposition to the ordinance. The youth vote has been virtually nil, a mere one percent of Houstonians 18 to 24 have cast ballots. Meanwhile a whopping 56 percent were 65 and older.

“It’s so hard to believe there are so many people out there who will vote against it,” sighs local progressive activist and blogger Andrea Greer. “I don’t know if I’m hopeful. We’ve run a good campaign, but what can you do when you are up against people who just constantly lie?”

Greer is referring in part to this commercial, Houston’s very own version of the Daisy ad, as crude as a cudgel and just as effective in knocking people senseless.

Greer believes that should HERO fail, it would not be at the hands of fiery religious zealots, but rather more moderate swing voters.

“Otherwise reasonable people I know who claim to be voting against it because they claim the ordinance is drafted poorly,” she says. “It’s not drafted poorly. I believe those people are just looking for an excuse to exercise their fears. And they should think about this: can they look an Iraq war vet in the face and say they opposed giving him or her a local remedy for employment discrimination? Are they ready to find an elderly relative a place to live when an apartment complex discriminates against them? Are they prepared to look the Reverend Bill Lawson, who marched with MLK, in the eye and say ‘Well, if we could have written a better version I could support it. If we’d had a 26th draft after the 37th community meeting, maybe, but sorry, I’m just not concerned enough about racism to vote for this?’”

Over the six years of Parker’s term, Houstonians have broken their arms patting themselves on the back about their openly gay mayor. As the first major American city to elect a gay person, the fact of Parker’s six-year reign was a trump card against the national narrative that Houston was a backward cowtown.

Greer believes that a vote to repeal HERO will utterly undo that nascent progressive image. Instead, Houston would become fixed in the national eye alongside Indianapolis, which become something of a national pariah earlier this year after voters passed a law allowing businesses to discriminate against gay customers. And it’s not just lefties like Greer who fear that stigma: hoping to avoid the tarnished image and economic consequences that came in the wake of the Indy vote, so does much of Houston’s conservative business community.

But it’s about more than public perception for HERO supporters. “This just troubles me deeply,” Greer says. “It’s 2015. Enough. Just like you can’t be a little bit pregnant, you can’t believe in a little bit of equality. You either stand for it or you don’t. I don’t want to guess at what the [early voting] numbers mean because in my heart, I want Houston to be all in on equal rights.”

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  • Mike Crognale

    The people of God seem to be standing up against the minions of Satan. Depending on how much exposure this piece gets it might spur large turnout on Tuesday. We shall see.

    • Jed

      and god is losing again.

  • Luke Taylor

    Sadly, Houston is a another Texas backwater cow town full of rednecks and country bumpkins. One of the only large US cities w/out an equal rights ordinance. It will never be considered a progressive city.

    • TrulyJulie

      The largest Democrat city in Texas – and the FOURTH largest (Democrat) city in the nation will never be “considered a progressive city” because it’s too “full of rednecks and country bumpkins”? What twisted logic you progressives use whenever the results of a social experiment indicate they may not turn out to your liking.

      • uhhuhh

        You need to return to grammar school, bigot. The name is “Democratic,” not “Democrat.” Are you going to vote in the Republic primary?

        • TrulyJulie

          Oooh, burn. Did you think that up all by yourself?

          The word “Democrat” refers to voters of a particular party, as does the word “Republican.” No one EVER talks about voters in terms of “Democratic” and “Republic.” “Democratic” refers to the style of government, not the leading number of voters from one particular party in a city.

          • José

            Common etiquette is that people and groups have the privilege of selecting their preferred names and that others will respect their choice. The Democratic National Committee clearly uses the term Democratic Party to refer to the organization. But I expect that you already know that.
            I’m not a Democrat nor have I ever been a member of the Democratic Party. However I am a mature and fair minded person and it’s clear to me that people like you who persist in using the term “Democrat Party” in order to irritate their opponents are simply being childish and ill-mannered.

          • TrulyJulie

            You may think what you will, but I am neither childish nor ill-mannered, and you certainly don’t know enough about me from one comment to draw an accurate conclusion. It’s an entirely different thing to talk about the Democratic National Convention than it is to talk about the Democratic city of Houston. Those two words have two apparently different meanings based on the context in which they are used.

            That said, I had nothing to say about the difference between Democrat and Democratic until someone else called me a bigot and insisted I should return to grammar school for using the wrong word. I don’t care whether voters on the Left call themselves Democratics, Democrats, or Lefties. Let’s stay on topic, shall we?

          • José

            Except for prickly right wingers who are intentionally trying to rile up folks, everyone else follows the common practice of using Democratic—with a capital D—as the adjective for all things concerning the party and its members. And I expect that you already understand that.

            Contrary to what you assert above, lots of people refer to the “Democratic voters”. Here’s a recent example from Fox News. I’ll bet it’s specifically called out that way in their style book.
            http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/10/11/sanders-omalley-jab-clinton-ahead-first-democratic-debate/

            I agree, this is a silly issue to waste time on. You say that you don’t care which labels the party cares to use for itself. That’s great. Henceforth please use “Democratic” as the adjective and “Democrat” only as a noun in reference to an individual. Thank you!

          • Indiana Pearl

            TrulyJulie corrected me for a typo a couple of days ago. She can dish it out, but she can’t take it.

          • TrulyJulie

            The next time I use an invented word to insult my political opponents you’re welcome to call me on it. In the meantime you and your liberal buddies can continue to strain at gnats (is it Democrat or Democratic?) while swallowing camels.

          • rmk948

            Personally, the term Demoncrap resonates well with me. Rethuglican is not bad, either. I’m all done voting for either Tweedledee or Tweedledum.

        • Sacwoodpusher

          The word is Dumbocrap, or sumthin lak thet.

      • Luke Taylor

        You are SO out of touch. The two largest Democratic strongholds in Texas are Austin and
        El Paso. Houston doesn’t even make it to the top 20 of the most Democratic cities in the U,S, Do your research and get a clue. You are an idiot.

        • TrulyJulie

          Houston IS the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest city in the nation, and its voters ARE a majority Democrat who routinely support Democrat candidates in both local and national elections, so my claim stands. I can understand that you might have misunderstood me, but calling me an idiot only reflects poorly on you.

      • Luke Taylor

        Trudy – One more question, please. Have you ever been laid? You act like a typical uptight Republican who is so upset about everything and everyone around you that you will never be happy. Either take a Xanax or get laid and all of this will go away. I promise.

    • Sacwoodpusher

      Luke……some of us “Country Bumpkins” have very advanced, difficult degrees, and have made $millions. Some of “us rednecks” are smarter then you city folk, and it doesn’t surprise us that you complain and call us backward, but we have watched you city folk drop out of school while we graduate with high GPA’s…….So pull yer hed out o’ yer ass and realize that rednecks ain’t quite as dumb as ye think.

  • SocraticGadfly

    Good piece. As Obama’s election showed with closeted racism, there’s still a lot of closeted homophobia in America. I see one person too subterranean to even be a mouthbreather is already here.

  • JohnMyroro

    Crap city full of bigots and knuckle-draggers. Pretty much like the state it adorns.

    • Lysergio

      Keep spewing that hate and ignorance, you sweet little progressive !

      • Jed

        as for whether or not the city is full of bigots and knuckle-draggers, we’ll have more evidence in about 72 hours.

  • TrulyJulie

    I disagree with Andrea Greer. She can think of her friends what she will, but I also strongly believe that HERO is poorly-drafted. I hope HERO goes down in flames and that the new mayor and many new city council members work to draft a new ordinance that covers the necessary anti-discrimination language while also deliberately excluding restrooms and locker rooms from the ‘public facilities’ loophole left wide open in the current ordinance language. The City of Fort Worth made sure that restrooms and locker rooms were excluded from the language before passing their ordinance. Yet we’re expected to believe that Houston voters who demand the same are unsophisticated and bigoted?

    In addition to the troubling ‘public facilities’ language is the fact that the current wording of the Houston ordinance forbids companies from singling out ‘protected’ groups of citizens to work with them and reward them. As Mayoral Candidate Bill King said in a recent debate, even Wal-Mart would not be permitted to hire veterans as a part of a corporate program to help them back into the workforce.

    Houston needs an ordinance, but we can do better.

    • Jed

      “the current wording of the Houston ordinance forbids companies from singling out ‘protected’ groups of citizens to work with them and reward them. ”

      what is the specific language to which you refer?

      • TrulyJulie

        Just remove the spaces:

        ht tp:// abc13. com/uncategorized/bill-king-on-houston-equal-rights-ordinance/978284/

        • Jed

          i have no idea who that guy is. does he provide a quote from the ordinance that answers my question?

          can’t you just answer my question instead of making me watch a video? you made the claim, i am asking for you to substantiate it.

  • DataguyII

    I hate that fear and hatred are far better motivators for voting than love and justice. Fortunately shifts in demographics and shifts away from religious superstition will eventually defeat fear and hatred at the ballot box.

    • MonicaR62

      Yeah but we need that to happen November 3, not next year, 2018 or 2020

      • DataguyII

        Yes, I completely agree. Sure hope hate and fear doesn’t win out.
        It appears to me that Chris Bell and Sylvester Turner are the most pro-social justice candidates for mayor, do you agree? My wife and I are trying to figure out who to vote for.

  • Brian

    Reading the comments on here is clear the LGBT progressives are the most intolerant groups we have in this country. A vote against this outrageous ordinance will be a vote for diversity.

    • Jed

      i don’t think that word means what you think it means.

      • José

        Which word? Clear? Intolerant? Diversity? Brian could be 100% off base with any of them.

        Of course it’s impossible to take issue with someone who is unwilling to support his claims by, you know, a logical argument with evidence and that kind of stuff.

  • Mark Coopers

    As a middle-aged voter (one who isn’t in the “young” or “older” camp), I can see that the young progressives love to talk a big game but never show up at the ballot box. Meanwhile, the older camp quietly coordinates and then shows up en masse to get things done their way. Say what you will but they are successful.
    .
    If the younger voters would stop growing their Grizzly Adams beards, nursing their growlers, and stop taking selfies, maybe they could get it together for 5 minutes and vote. The actual voting doesn’t take a long time: if the older crowd can spare a few minutes out of their remaining time on Earth, it really can’t be that much.

    .
    I love early voting and cast my ballot on the state constitutional amendments, county bond issue, city offices, and city propositions (there are 2 of them).

    • rmk948

      I vote regularly, but I’m beginning to realize that it is a feel-good ritual that makes no real difference in my life. It is not hard to demonstrate that the costs of voting (traveling to the polls, familiarizing yourself with the issues, being liable for jury duty) far outweigh any individual gains. I am seriously considering cancelling my registration prior to the 2016 elections.

      • Mark Coopers

        I’d disagree slightly with your premise: namely, that the costs outweigh the benefits. I don’t think that there’s much cost to traveling to the polls and you’d be liable for jury duty in any case since they cull from the driver license list now (I think). Getting familiar with the issues can take as little as 10 minutes in my opinion.
        .
        A slightly cynical view is that your vote actually has MORE impact now since it is one of the few that are cast. If we had more people voting, each individual vote would represent a much smaller percentage. Think about it: if only 100 people showed up for an election, all it would take is 51 of them to make binding decisions on the 100 voters – and the many thousands who didn’t show up.

        .
        Bottom line: Keep voting and try to bring a friend with you to the polls. Then, go out for a growler. 🙂

        • rmk948

          You are quite right about jury duty: I didn’t realize that Texas uses voter rolls and driver’s license/state ID card lists to fill the jury pool. You have to be eligible to vote in the state, but you need not be a registered voter.

          I still am doubtful about giving sanction to the existing political process by participating in it. My feelings are somewhat like those expressed by W.B. Yeats in “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”:

          My country is Kiltartan Cross

          My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,

          No likely end could bring them loss

          Or leave them happier than before.

          • Jed

            by refusing to sanction the status quo by not participating you will surely … perpetuate the status quo.

            good plan. in fact, that is precisely the plan they have for you. well played.

          • rmk948

            Status quo, some infinitesimal change from the status quo, who cares? You can make a good case either way. At the end of the day, I expect that our political system and economy will fall apart before very long.

          • Jed

            maybe you can join the bunker with the evangelists waiting for the end of the world and do nothing about either, together.

  • Sacwoodpusher

    What’s the matter Houstonites? Many people do not like the restroom sharing portions of the bill. If it makes us uncomfortable, then we will vote against it, whether or not you label us knuckle-draggers for it or not. You couldn’t just craft a bill that nobody would have a problem with, you just think you have a mandate, and try to push too much down people’s throats. My wives and daughters don’t want to have to use a restroom where men are around to pee on the floor. Look, men’s restrooms are equipped with urinals, so that men can pee using their penis. Women’s rooms don’t have that feature, so what is wrong with us dividing restrooms up according to how they are designed? If you have a penis, then go to the restroom designed to for you. The same with those having vaginas. It’s not homophobia, transgender phobis, or any type of phobia, it’s just that you are asking us to go too far, too fast. We’re Americans, and Texans, not the French!

    • Jed

      it makes you uncomfortable, but it’s not a phobia? is it more of an unpleasant burning sensation?

      • Sacwoodpusher

        OK…..Then take it this way. I think you will find out tonight that HERO will go down. The phobic label just makes me look at you funny, because that isn’t what is going on, but so what……you’ll simply lose.

        • Jed

          you won you won you shot the bb gun.
          they lost they lost they ate tomato sauce.

          houston: 62% homophobe, 100% suckhole.

          • Wayne Granzin

            jed: 100% liberal troll.

  • Cool Cool

    That was a pretty epic opposition ad. It basically said: “If you vote for this, you are voting for child-rape”. And while it’s clearly misleading, whoever put out that ad needs to be picked up by a GOP candidate to stump against Hilary.

  • I saw Governor Abbott’s tweet. He contradicts himself – He urges a NO vote on HERO when it is a NO vote that would actually force some men to use women’s restrooms. Men who were mis-assigned female at birth.

    If HERO goes down, it will only prove that the majority of those who turned out to vote do not have a clue as to what constitutes “male” and “female” – and I blame the Texas educational system for turning out graduates whose understanding of science is poor, and whose understanding of logic is non-existent.

    • Wayne Granzin

      as long as we continue to have men’s and women’s restrooms. go to the one you look most convincingly like and leave the rest of us out of your emotional drama. sorry you have to deal with that. but everyone has issues to contend with. life isn’t fair. never has been. never will be. no matter how hard we try to artificially package it as so.

      • Jed

        “go to the one you look most convincingly like”

        is *that* the new law now?

        • Wayne Granzin

          you have a more practical solution?

          • Jed

            i’m no expert, but it sounds like you are advising transgender folks to do more or less what you just voted against.

            maybe i’m missing something.

  • Johannes Kronenfeld

    We do not need the HERO ordinance when there are discrimination laws already in the books. Like guns laws, we need to enforce the laws we already have, not make up new ones so politicians can say they put their face to something.

    If people want to know how I voted, I’m not afraid to say I voted no, and it is because of the “bathroom ordinance”. It’s really simple; if you have a penis GO TO THE MEN’S BATHROOM … if you have a vagina GO TO THE WOMEN’S BATHROOM. If you don’t like it, you can either hold it … STFU & go to your gender’s (NOT gender identity’s) bathroom … or go into the “family bathroom” that are popping up in many public places. This has nothing to do with gay, lesbian, or trans person phobia … it has to do with what I don’t want to see happen. If I see a man going into a woman’s bathroom, I will tell him “wrong one”, because that is how I was raised. If you want to complain about my beliefs you have all rights to do so. BUT if you complain and don’t vote for what you believe in then that makes you a hypocrite.

    If you want to throw Jesus in my face, please remember that Jesus was actually a Jew (not a Christian) and he lived his life to the old ways, but he also encouraged forgiveness.

  • Wayne Granzin

    why is it that liberal / progressive types always think that if you don’t agree with them, that it’s based on “fear”?

    how about i simply don’t think it’s a good idea. and not because of the bathroom part. i think it’s a bad idea because:
    – it’s as likely to be as much a revenue opportunity for attorneys as it is protection for citizens.
    – if a business owner has to defend themselves in court it will incur a great deal of time and expense – EVEN IF THEY WIN.
    – if you don’t like how a business or person conducts their business. you have the right to vote with YOUR wallet. not THEIRS.

    • Jed

      great argument. so good, it’s been used for all of america’s history (and beyond) to defend discrimination.

      • Wayne Granzin

        the real problem going on here is that we’ve (you’ve) become so indoctrinated that we no longer understand what the term “discrimination” means. it means to be able to differentiate between things. to be able to know a good idea from a bad one.

        i don’t have to like you. all of your ideas aren’t good ones. nor is all of your behavior. and i’m not going to live in a community where i’m forced to accept something simply out of fear of being labeled some kind of “ist” or “phobe”

        • Jed

          good definition of discriminate. i used to make sure my conlaw class understand that same concept, right before i then made sure they understood the word “invidious.”

  • Sacwoodpusher

    It looks for all the world to me like we have some liberals we should make uncomfortable enough to leave our great state.

    • Indiana Pearl

      We’re here to stay. Get over yourself.

  • The*REAL*TrulyJulie

    HOORAY for Houston! Common sense has prevailed.

    • Indiana Pearl

      Fear and bigotry is more like it.

      Prop 8 in CA was overturned by the Supremes . . . more Texas taxpayers’ money to fight to overturn.