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Vote early, and vote often

Apparently, some people took the “Texas Two-Step” thing a bit too literally.

Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman will provide the Harris County District Attorney’s office today copies of the Democratic and Republican poll books that show 1147 names of individuals that may have voted illegally or unlawfully participated in both primaries in the March 4th Elections.

“Texas law prohibits individuals from voting twice in an election, as well participating in both the Republican and Democratic primaries during the same election cycle. In most elections, there are less than a handful of such cases. In this election, there appears to be a significant number that may call for further investigation,” said Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman, the chief elections officer of the County.

According to the County Clerk, during the Primary Elections 389 individuals may have voted illegally by voting in person during the Early Voting Period and also on Election Day. In those instances, 378 occurred in the Democratic Primary and seven in the Republican Primary. Four voters voted early by mail in the Republican primary and then voted in the Democratic Primary on Election Day. Under section 64.012 of the Texas Election Code on ILLEGAL VOTING, A person commits an offense if the person: knowingly votes or attempts to vote more than once: An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree. A person found to have committed a third degree felony may face 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. In the case a person is convicted of attempting to vote twice, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor. The person may face up to 1 year in the County jail and/or a fine up to $4,000.

Also, according the County Clerk, 758 individuals may have participated in both the Democratic and Republican Primaries. Of those instances, 701 occurred on Election Day and four voted in one Primary during the early voting period and in the other on Election Day. Section 162.014 of the Election Code stipulates that UNLAWFUL PARTICIPATION IN PARTY AFFAIRS occurs if a person knowingly votes or attempts to vote in a primary election or participates or attempts to participate in a convention of a party after having voted in a primary election or participated in a convention of another party during the same voting year. A person found to have committed a Class C misdemeanor may be fined up to $500.

So in an election in which a sizable number of people had never voted before, a bit more than 0.2% of all 580,000+ participants got confused and either voted twice in the same primary, or voted in one and then the other. Forgive me if I’m neither surprised nor impressed by that.

I think you’re going to have a real hard time proving that any of these people was something other than unclear on the concept, or given bad information by someone. There was a barrage of ads on the Democratic side exhorting people to “vote twice”, meaning once in the primary and once in the precinct convention. That one in a thousand of these voters might have misinterpreted the meaning of that strikes me as a very foreseeable consequence. As for the people who voted in both primaries, I would again ascribe this to ignorance rather than deliberate malfeasance. Even if you could convince me it was a conspiracy of some kind, what exactly could it possibly have accomplished. I’m just not seeing anything sinister here.

In fact, the Chron story provides an illustration of how this kind of double-voting might happen:

Robert Duran Jr. said he walked into the wrong room to vote in the March 4 primary. But he said he should not be indicted for it.

“It was an innocent mistake,” said Duran, who works for an oil services company. “I just failed to read the sign.”

[…]

Duran said he rushed to the polls after work, meaning to vote as a Republican. Duran was voting in his first primary, and he unthinkingly went to the same room he always does for general elections. But after Duran signed in the poll book and went to the booth, he saw the ballot had the names of the Democratic candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

“I clicked on it and said, ‘Whoa, this is not what I meant to do,’ ” Duran said.

Duran alerted a poll worker, who redirected him to another room, where Republican balloting was taking place. The poll worker told him the accidental ballot would be canceled out of the system.

“They told me, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ ” Duran said.

I’ll bet most of the folks who did this will have a similar story to tell. Investigate as you see fit, but I wouldn’t expect to find much of anything worth really pursuing.

It’s amusing to me that one commenter in that Houston Politics thread brought up voter ID, because I can’t see how that would have made any difference. The argument behind voter ID laws is to prevent people from impersonating other voters. It seems to me that if any of these double-dippers had maliciously intended to cast multiple ballots, they would have done exactly that, rather than present themselves as themselves each time they showed up, which when you think about it pretty much guarantees you’ll get caught. I mean heck, if the problem here was sloppy record-keeping by an election judge or County Clerk’s office employee, then these overzealous participants may well have shown a driver’s license each time they voted instead of their voter’s reg card. You figure that had they shown their card and gotten it stamped the first time, they’d have been unable to vote again because the evidence of their prior participation would have been right there to see.

Anyway, I see this as much ado about nothing. Surely the DA has better things to do than spend a lot of time chasing this down.

The last time there was an indictment for voting violations was in 1999, according to Scott Durfee, an assistant district attorney in Harris County. The voter was acquitted at trial.

The new list has been referred to the district attorney’s Public Integrity Division, Durfee said. “We are going to review all the names in due course,” he said.

I’ll bet. PDiddie and Stace have more.

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3 Comments

  1. Charles Hixon says:

    The DA should investigate the County Clerk for insufficient checks in the system to prevent this and for attempting to pass this incompetency off to the DA.

  2. Grumpy says:

    Geez, and I was certain I’d been sent TWO voter reg cards for just the purpose of voting both R&D primaries!

    OOps

  3. exlitigator says:

    I saw this at my precinct. A woman and her son who had voted earlier in the day came back as the polls were closing. She came back because she had heard she needed to vote again and the second time was more important. she got in the regular line again, but she figured it out before casting her ballot. I am sure it was repeated elsewhere.