February 21, 2005
Questioning Taylor's ethics

Greg Moses has two more articles as a result of his study of the original documents in the Heflin challenge, and he has concluded that Andy Taylor is guilty of attempting to violate the civil rights of some voters, specifically the voters whose registrations were fraudulently changed by Bernard Amandi. Here's the crux of Moses' argument:

Several voters of Nigerian descent discovered when they tried to vote in the November elections, that they had been fraudulently re-registered into a neighboring House District. Sometime in late 2003, someone had submitted new registrations for these voters, placing them into a legislative district that would soon involve a candidate of Nigerian descent. The candidate lost to an incumbent in the Democratic primary election.

During public hearings in the election contest that he brought to the legislature on behalf of his client Talmadge Heflin, Taylor argued that these African-American voters who preferred Democrat Hubert Vo should have their votes tossed out because they were cast in a legislative district other than where the voters were registered.

Yet, anyone with access to the original documents in the Heflin-Vo election contest (including Taylor himself, who submitted the docs in the first place) would have been able to plainly read the explanation that "fraudulent addresses" for voters of Nigerian descent had been allegedly submitted by someone other than the voters. In fact, the assertion was twice stated in carefully written explanations on envelopes for provisional ballots submitted by a husband-wife pair of voters.

The provisional ballots were approved by Harris County election officials who accepted that the voters should be considered as properly registered. And legislative Master of Discovery Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) also ruled the ballots to be legal. Hartnett explained in the election hearing that he had taken the time to call up one of the voters and discuss the predicament.

While it appeared to someone viewing the hearing that Hartnett was being exceedingly perceptive in his discovery of a pattern of fraud against the voters, in fact he was just reading what was plainly written, not once but twice, on the evidence submitted by Taylor. This plainly stated explanation, which was accepted by Harris County officials and Hartnett, never stopped Taylor from trying to suppress the votes of these African-American voters nevertheless, along with their votes for Vo.

The significance of this finding is that Taylor (the same attorney who defended the heavy-handed redistricting of the Texas Congressional map in 2004) continued to pursue allegations in a public hearing that a number of Nigerian-American voters (4-9 cases according to my preliminary estimate) had cast illegal ballots, even as he placed exculpatory evidence on the record that plainly indicated they were victims not perpetrators of fraud.

By pursuing his allegations against these voters in the context of a rare legislative election contest, Taylor used his law license to call down the power of the state to pursue certain voters under threat of arrest, when he had every reason to suspect they were innocent from the start. If the law is going to jealously guard Taylor's right to pursue election irregularities, should it not just as jealously guard the rights of voters against willful and obnoxious harassment by agents of the law?

Taylor's bad faith attack on these African-American voters counts as a Civil Rights infringement in two ways. First, it was an effort to criminalize voters of color by deliberately overlooking exculpatory evidence on the record. Second, it counts as a bad faith effort to overturn the election of a candidate of color. Using the power of law to harass voters of African descent in an effort to unseat a candidate of Vietnamese descent, accusing all parties of fraud when your own evidence indicates they have done nothing wrong, this is offensive, outrageous, indecent, and should cost Andy Taylor his license to practice law in Texas.

I'm not a lawyer, so I have no idea how the State Bar would react to an actual complaint being filed against Taylor on these grounds; my best guess is they would not act on it. What I want to emphasize here is that when you hear Taylor and his henchwoman Tine Benkiser scream about "fraud!" in the HD149 race (as they were both still doing after Hartnett made his ruling and Heflin dropped his challenge), this is what they're talking about. In their opinion, voters who did nothing wrong and who had always voted in HD149 but were wrongfully reregistered in another House district by a third party intent on affecting another race should not have had their votes counted in the HD149 race, and the fact that their votes were counted is proof of massive fraud by Democrats bent on stealing the election from Talmadge Heflin.

There's a good reason why Will Hartnett rejected Taylor and Benkiser's twisted logic, beyond the fact that it's a load of crap: People who didn't do anything wrong should not be treated like people who did. These voters were essentially victims of identity theft. To deny them their right to vote based on that would add to their victimization. But that's what Taylor and Benkiser wanted, and they're still advocating for it. Whether that's an offense worthy of the State Bar's intervention or not I can't say, but it's shameful and dishonest, and they deserve to be scorned for it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 21, 2005 to Election 2004 | TrackBack