From Statesman columnist @bgrumet: “@TXAG Ken Paxton is using the powers of his office to treat a good-faith mishap as a crime, after coming under political pressure from his own base to file charges.”
— Austin Statesman (@statesman) 9:30 AM – 6 February 2022
The article is paywalled, but I got to see a Google doc copy of it. This happened to Rob Icsezen, the host of the H-Town Progressive podcast and a Democratic appointee of the Early Voting Ballot Board and Signature Verification Committee for the 2020 election. I will summarize what happened:
– A Republican poll watcher showed up to observe what the EVBB and SVC were doing. Existing law said poll watchers were allowed at the former, but said nothing about the latter. Icsezen interpreted this to mean that they weren’t allowed to observe the SVC, checked his interpretation with the Harris County Attorney, which approved his decision, and turned the poll watcher away.
– The poll watcher complained to the Harris County GOP, who called the Secretary of State, who called Icsezen and said he was wrong, the poll watcher needed to be allowed in to observe the SVC. Icsezen did so. According to the story, this all took place within a few hours, and according to other members of both groups who the author spoke to, it was no big deal at the time.
– An investigator with the AG’s Election Integrity Unit spoke to Icsezen in December of 2020, and apparently concluded that this was basically a misunderstanding of an unclear law, and did not warrant further action.
– The Harris County GOP reacted angrily to this and sent a letter to Ken Paxton demanding he take action or else “we have no confidence that the Attorney General will uphold any of our election laws”.
– So Paxton, ever the coward, convened a grand jury in Montgomery County – not Harris, where this alleged “crime” took place, but the very friendly confines of Montgomery County – and presented his case. Which, despite this being Montgomery County, and despite it being entirely his show, declined to indict Icsezen on whatever charges Paxton had dreamed up.
– Note that Paxton had previously tried to indict Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir on similarly flimsy charges in 2020, but a grand jury in Williamson County – again, not where the alleged “crime” took place – declined to indict.
– The only reason we know any of this is because Paxton put out a whiny press release complaining about his inability to get a Montgomery County grand jury to give him what he wanted.
So yeah, this is the guy who wants unlimited power to prosecute “election fraud” – which, evidence would suggest he’s not very good at – and is now sending out the howler monkeys against the Court of Criminal Appeals in order to get his way. Doesn’t exactly fill you with pride and confidence in our justice system, does it?