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PolitiFact Texas reporters came across plenty of curious facts through 2016--all announced first on our Twitter feed (please follow us here).
We’re not dwelling here on how we rated claims on our Truth-O-Meter, which is overseen by editors at the partnering Austin American-Statesman, Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. You can click to all our fact checks at www.politifacttexas.com .
In this story, we’re sharing various facts that struck us as interesting on our way to determining accuracy.
Canadian and American?
For instance, while finding no validity to a claim that Canada-born Ted Cruz had a "double passport," we learned there’s no such document for anyone. Still, by virtue of Cruz’s birth in Calgary, the mostly Texas-raised senator long had dual citizenship, meaning citizenship in Canada and the United States, though he renounced his Canadian distinction in 2014, the Dallas Morning News then reported.
That distinction is automatically given to people born in Canada who land citizenship in another country. A Canadian government website says: "You do not apply for dual citizenship and there is no related certificate. Canadians are allowed to take foreign citizenship while keeping their Canadian citizenship."
After Cruz bested Donald Trump and other candidates in the Texas Republican presidential primary, we found Half True Gov. Greg Abbott’s declaration that the state had just enjoyed record turnout.
The 19.89 percent of the state’s registered voters who cast ballots in the Republican primary set a Texas Republican record, according to the Texas secretary of state. But higher combined primary turnout occurred in other years. Incidentally, a whopping 73 percent of registered voters participated in the November 1992 general election; 59 percent voted in November 2016.
Abbott separately proved accurate when he touted the 2015 Legislature for passing the fewest measures into law in 20 years. The 1,280 Texas House and Senate bills that made it into law in 2015 were the fewest since 1,063 measures made it into law in 1995, the first year of Republican George W. Bush’s governorship.
As the election year warmed up, we rated Half True a claim that state law requires every Texas high school to have a voter registrar on campus and part of their responsibility is to make sure that when children become 18 and eligible to vote, that they vote.
A 1983 law requires each high school to have an employee focused on providing voter registration applications to eligible students. Nobody is required to confirm trips to the polls.
Speaking of youth, a Democratic Texas House hopeful was right about there being no one under age 30 currently in the Texas House or Senate. Closest call: Leighton Schubert initially won his Brenham-area House seat at 32.
Separately, a leader of EMILY’s List, the Democratic group that backs "pro-choice" women for office, was correct that Texas had yet to elect a Latina to Congress.
Room to improve in college readiness
Later, we found solid a Texas Supreme Court statement suggesting improvements in the college readiness of Texas high school graduates between 2005 and 2013.
On the other hand, our follow-up story quoted the state’s education commissioner, Mike Morath, saying that about 33 percent of Texas high school students are ready to succeed in college or other training. The "one third are ready" conclusion ties to the performances of students who take the SAT or ACT pre-college tests.
Broadly, Texas has a "60X30" goal, declared by Abbott in 2015, of having 60 percent of Texas' 25- to 34-year-old workforce achieving a postsecondary education credential by 2030. Some 34 percent of such residents lately fulfill those expectations.
Texas not the fastest-growing state
Growth claims also got our attention.
Texas has been growing faster than the nation as a whole, we confirmed. In 2015, though, Texas had a slower growth rate than four states: North Dakota, Colorado, Nevada and Florida.
Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour commissioner, cheerfully called Austin the country’s fastest-growing city the last five years. From April 2010 through June 2014 and among cities with populations of 250,000 or more, to be precise, Austin did grow the fastest, we found.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler later proved correct when he said: "Austin is No. 1 in Texas in startups, venture capital and patents." But Houston ran ahead in international technology patents.
Adler was off, however, when he told a group that the first tweet was sent from Austin. Twitter gained momentum during a 2007 SXSW conference. The first tweet was sent nearly a year earlier--in California.
Cheerleaders, watch your heads?
Other fact checks brought us up to speed on cheerleader concussions, maternal mortality rates, journalists killed in Mexico, voters lacking photo identification, how many of us drive alone and the state’s prevalent languages.
Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints called women’s soccer the sport with the second-most concussions and said cheerleading ranks No. 3. Half True, we concluded. Women’s/girls soccer often places a distant second to football for concussions. Concussion chances from cheerleading are slight.
We found an overstatement in U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s claim about a 136-percent surge in the nation’s maternal mortality rate. Still, there was a nearly 17 percent uptick, according to research based on death certificates. An expert told us the increase could be attributed to causes including women giving birth at older ages and higher rates of obesity and heart disease.
Our look into a Jorge Ramos claim about journalists killed in Mexico in the last decade led us to build and share a chart documenting widely varied counts--from 24 to 108.
Another count--Tom "Smitty" Smith’s statement that over 600,000 Texas registered voters lacked a required photo ID to cast a ballot--mostly held up though that estimate was made in 2014.
We found False a claim by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner that 97 percent of people drive around without a fellow passenger. Census research suggests that about 80 percent of commuters drive alone.
How do you say 'fact check' in Vietnamese?
John Cornyn, the state’s senior U.S. senator, was right, we found, when he termed Vietnamese the third most commonly spoken language in Texas; in 2014, English and Spanish ranked first and second. Nationally, French ranked No. 3.
Checking Trump and Clinton
We didn’t often check national players.
But we got a chance after Trump told a Dallas crowd the U.S. has to go to "plane graveyards" and museums to get parts for its 20-year-old jet fighters while it sells new jets to other countries. Mostly True, we found: The government salvages parts for military planes remaining in action and the U.S. also sells aircraft to militaries abroad. But the described parts salvaging, which can save time and money, doesn’t appear to be misguided while the U.S. also buys new planes for its forces.
We also looked into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s charge that Austin’s Alex Jones, the InfoWars.com conspiracy theorist and Trump supporter, "even said the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre were child actors and no one was actually killed there." True, we found. Jones said long before Clinton spoke that the day’s tragic events featured actors and also "pretty much didn’t happen."
Which school districts get less than they did five years ago?
Toward the end of the year, we found Mostly True a claim by state Rep. Donna Howard that 31 percent of Texas school districts are fielding less per-student aid than in 2011. To our query, Tom Canby of the Texas Association of School Business Officials developed a spreadsheet based on state data that lists each school district and if it got more or less aid in 2015 compared to 2011.
We’re happy to say, though, there’s no hurry. We're now seven years old--and we plan to stick around.
We welcome your tips too. What makes you wonder: Could that be so?
Truth-O-Meter articles, PolitiFact Texas, "Donald Trump incorrectly says Ted Cruz has had a 'double passport,'" Jan. 6, 2016; "Paul Saldaña says Texas law requires high school registrars to make eligible students vote," Jan. 29, 2016; "Joe Straus accurately says Texas growing twice as fast as rest of nation," Jan. 30, 2016; "Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee says maternal mortality rate for U.S. women shot up 136 percent," Feb. 1, 2016; "Huey Rey Fischer nails lack of Texas legislators under age 30, overstates possible millenial vote," Feb. 26, 2016; "EMILY's List leader correct that Texas home to millions of Latinas, none ever elected to Congress," Feb. 29, 2016; "Greg Abbott touts record Texas primary turnout, but he's overlooking some years (such as 2008)," March 24, 2016; "PGA Tour commissioner says Austin 'fastest-growing city in the country' last five years," March 29, 2016; "Jorge Ramos echoes count of 80 journalists killed in Mexico since 2006, but tallies vary," April 8, 2016; "Tom Smith of Public Citizen says 600,000 Texas registered voters lack valid photo IDs to go to polls," April 22, 2016; "Sylvester Turner overstates number of solo drivers," May 6, 2016; "Steve Adler correctly says Austin No. 1 in Texas in startups, venture capital investment, patents," May 13, 2016; "Steve Adler wrongly claims first tweet was sent from Austin," May 20, 2016; "Justice Don Willett accurately recaps surge in Texas students meeting college readiness standards," May 20, 2016; "John Cornyn says Vietnamese third most common language spoken in Texas," May 26, 2016; "Greg Abbott says Texas legislators last year passed fewest measures into law in 20 years," June 3, 2016; "Drew Brees says women's soccer, cheerleading pose concussion risks second only to football," July 15, 2016; "Donald Trump claims military jets need salvage parts," July 23, 2016; "Hillary Clinton correct that Austin's Alex Jones said no one died at Sandy Hook Elementary," Sept. 1, 2016; "Donna Howard says 31 percent of Texas school districts getting less per student than in 2011," Nov. 16, 2016
Story, "Do up to 80 percent of Texas high school graduates (still) flail afterward?," PolitiFact Texas, June 8, 2016