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Revisiting Heflin-Vo

I looked through some of my Election 2004 archives as I was searching for the Andy Taylor links in my previous post, and doing so reminded me of just how much the election contest brought by Talmadge Heflin against Hubert Vo blows a hole in the “voter fraud” claims the GOP likes to throw around these days. Royal Masset brought this up the other day, how there was no fraud found in that excruciatingly scrutinized race, and it’s worth emphasizing again today.

In his report ruling against Heflin, Republican Rep. Will Hartnett, who was the adjudicator of that contest, noted three kinds of questioned votes. One was for people who voted at the wrong precinct. They were legitimately in HD149, they just went to the wrong location within that district to vote. Those votes were counted. Another was for people from Fort Bend County, which borders HD149, who erroneously voted in Harris County. This is a relatively common situation – according to Paul Bettencourt, the county line is not well delineated, and he and his cohort in Fort Bend receive registration applications from folks on the other side of the line all the time. Those votes, which broke both ways, were discounted for the HD149 race.

Finally, there was a small set of truly questionable votes. One was cast by a non-citizen, a Norwegian national. He had filled out a reg form at a voter’s registration drive, and correctly indicated on the form that he was not a citizen. He was mistakenly sent a voter’s reg card anyway (by Bettencourt’s office), and his vote was subsequently thrown out. There was a woman who voted in person and also by mail. She was accustomed to voting in person, but said in her deposition that when she received a mail ballot, she assumed she was supposed to fill it out and send it it; she didn’t realize that having done so, she wasn’t supposed to then vote in person. One of her two votes was discarded. Finally, there was a person who was living in north Texas as of November, 2004. He was selling his home in Harris County – it was still on the market at the time, he still had personal belongings there, and he hadn’t registered in his new county yet. His vote was allowed to stand.

The kicker to this is that all three of those folks testified in their deposition that they had voted for Talmadge Heflin; the Norwegian gentleman said he voted a straight Republican ticket. That didn’t stop Andy Taylor from referring to them, prior to the hearing, as examples of the pernicious fraud in HD149 that helped put Hubert Vo into office, and which he, Andy Taylor, Defender of the Sanctity of the Voting Process, was there to ferret out and expose for all the world to see. None of these folks had acted in bad faith, and by almost perverse coincidence they’d all supported Taylor’s man. But they served a useful rhetorical purpose, one which still informs the terms of this argument more than two years later.

None of this will matter if David Dewhurst takes advantage of Sen. Mario Gallegos’ fragile health and brings HB218 to the floor of the Senate now that he can (at least in theory) get it to a vote. Harvey Kronberg suggests that at least one Republican Senator has lost his appetite for this fight, especially as there’s a lot of unfinished business and less than five days in which to accomplish it. As you know, I don’t put much stock in that, but maybe I’ll be proven wrong. HB218 is on the intent calendar for today, but it’s been there every day this week, so perhaps that doesn’t mean anything. Whatever the case, I wanted to go over all this just as a reminder where we came from. I don’t know where we’ll wind up, but that’s where we’ve been, and I hope we all remember that.

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  1. Cafe Tortoli says:

    One of your finest posts ever, a timely and useful reminder of what is really at play here.

  2. Justin says:

    Great post! We need to spread this around quickly.

  3. amy says:

    WFAA in Dallas did a really long story last night about the “illegal immigrants voting illegally in Ft. Worth” and that there could potentially be “thousands of illegal votes”. What a bunch of crap! They need to be called on this wonderful piece of crap they call journalism!

  4. Copernicus says:

    Wow, makes you wonder why Andy Taylor didn’t press to examine the code of the Hart InterCivic machines.