By Bethany Blankley
Ahead of the Tuesday primary election, Direct Action Texas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting election fraud in the state, has created toll-free lines for reporting election administration issues, including potential fraud.
The numbers are available online but are also being posted “in communities where potential for fraud has been detected or has a pattern of occurring,” it states. For English speakers, the number is: 877-267-VOTE (8682). For Spanish speakers, the number is: 877-385-VOTA (8682).
In the most recent legislative session, an election bill passed requiring electronic pollbook security standards. But election fraud is far worse than election administration issues, the group argues.
“Currently, Texas has tens of thousands of voters on its own rolls that are duplicates, have moved, have died, are non-citizens, or are ineligible to vote as felons,” Direct Action Texas states. “The time has come for these inaccurate registrations to be removed.”
Texas law does not require verification of a voter’s statement that he or she is a citizen, according to Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Office.
Only non-felon U.S. citizens 18-years-old or older can legally vote in the state but voter registration is based on an “honor system” with no documentation required or process to verify citizenship status of applicants. Applicants simply check a box affirming citizenship status.
Any registered voter with a Texas driver’s license can vote in Texas. Texas law allows lawfully present noncitizens to obtain driver’s licenses by showing proof of lawful presence to DPS.
In 2018, officials representing Texas’ Secretary of State, the Texas Attorney General’s office, and Starr County all testified before the Senate Select Committee on Election Security that the existing system makes it easy for non-citizens to register to vote in Texas.
According to Keith Ingram, head of the Texas Secretary of State’s Elections Division, the only way for the Secretary of State’s Office to ensure that only citizens are voting is through a random sampling of a jury duty summons. If a non-citizen is never summoned to jury duty or doesn’t respond to a summons, the state has no mechanism in place to address the problem.
Texas Scorecard found in a brief survey of only four counties that from 2016-2018, 165 unlawfully registered non-citizens were removed from these counties’ voter rolls – and only after they self-identified as non-citizens in the process of recusing themselves from jury duty. They reportedly cast 100 illegal votes.
J. Christian Adams, a former U.S. Department of Justice official, and president and General Counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, argues significant mistakes were made in Texas’ rollout of a program to compare voter rolls to driver’s license data, which resulted in a lawsuit filed by the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens, and National League of United Latin American Citizens.
The foundation has sued Harris County’s voter registrar to obtain non-citizen voter records, which are subject to public inspection under the National Voter Registration Act.
At its annual policy summit in January, the Texas Public Policy Foundation announced its launch of an election fraud initiative in 2020, highlighted by a six-minute video about election fraud methods used by politiqueras in the Rio Grande Valley described by Omar Escobar, Democratic District Attorney for Starr, Duval, and Jim Hogg counties.
Escobar and his team have prosecuted offenders for mail-in ballot application fraud, unlawful influencing of voters, unlawful mail ballot collection by vote harvesters, and illegal voting by non-residents and non-citizens.
While politiqueras are profiting from mail ballot harvesting, “mail-in is only part of the problem,” Escobar says. “At some point, the ‘mail-in mafia’ will begin to diminish, and you’re going to start to see more of this other kind of fraud happen, where people are getting assisted who don’t need assistance, in the polling location.”
Prosecuting fraud cases are difficult without local resources and local political will, which Escobar says statewide, “Texas does not have the resources at all to handle election fraud.”
Escobar testified in favor of mail ballot and voter assistance reforms included in last session’s Senate Bill 9 and asked lawmakers to add an enforcement provision allowing authorities to proactively prevent fraud. The bill went nowhere.