Texas attorney general appeals ruling he can't prosecute election fraud

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has appealed a recent court decision prohibiting his office from prosecuting election cases.

"The Texas Attorney General has had the authority to prosecute certain election law violations for 70 years," the motion filed Sunday said. 

"The Court’s decision misinterprets constitutional text, breaks with Supreme Court precedent, is inconsistent with its own precedent, and creates a complicated structure in which the type of case and court determine whether representing the State is an executive- or judicial-branch duty," it added.

In a statement on Monday, Paxton apparently pointed to the 2020 election, which Texas officials probed for fraud at the urging of former President Trump, as an example of the importance for prosecuting voter fraud. 

"Last year’s election cycle shows us that officials in our most problematic counties will simply let election fraud run rampant. I will continue to oppose this decision that diminishes our democracy and misconstrues the Texas Constitution," Paxton's statement said.

“The Court’s decision to suddenly remove our authority to prosecute election fraud can only empower dishonest campaigns to silence voters across the state,” he continued.

He added that the "decision is not only wrong on legal grounds" but also gives "district and county attorneys virtually unlimited discretion to not bring election law prosecutions."

Last month, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said that the state's attorney general does not, with few exceptions, have the authority to independently prosecute criminal cases like those involving voter fraud.

“Absent the consent and deputization order of a local prosecutor or the request of a district or county attorney for assistance, the Attorney General has no authority to independently prosecute criminal cases in trial courts,” the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said in a 8-1 ruling. 

Both legal battles stem from the case of Zena Collins Stephens, a sheriff from Jefferson County who was prosecuted by Paxton after the FBI learned of information “regarding potential campaign-finance violations.” 

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