This Texas Observer story about Attorney General Greg Abbott’s crusade to prosecute mostly minority Democrats on flimsy charges of vote fraud is a pretty good overview of the saga, and builds to some extent on the work that the Lone Star Project has been doing. I have two criticisms to offer, because it felt to me like the piece came up a bit short; as someone who has been following this, I don’t think I really learned much new. Anyway, on the matter of Abbott’s Democrats-only approach to pursuing prosecutions:
Despite Abbott’s declarations that nobody is above Texas law, he has prosecuted no Republicans. “What is especially troubling is that while Greg Abbott’s office has prosecuted minority seniors for simply mailing ballots, he has not prosecuted anyone on the other side of the aisle for what appear to be open-and-shut cases of real voter fraud,” Hebert told Texas House Elections Committee in January, as the panel held a hearing on a bill making the state’s voter ID laws tougher.
[Gerry Hebert, a former chief of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Voting Section] cited a 2005 election in Highland Park, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country with hundreds of million-dollar homes and where both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney once lived. In 2005, two election judges, both Republicans, and a 10-year-old boy handed out over 100 ballots, Hebert testified, without checking any voter registration or ID cards. The ballots were filled out and turned in, he said, quoting from several Dallas district attorney memos. The memos suggested a strong basis for prosecuting the judges for not following procedures and counting “over 100 more ballots” than there were “signatures on the roster.”
In other words, here was a serious case of apparent ballot-box stuffing–voter fraud–by Republicans, albeit in a state where the GOP holds all the constitutional offices, most judgeships, and controls most county election boards. “Here we are nearly three years later, and Attorney General Abbott’s office has done virtually nothing,” Hebert told Texas legislators. “Rather than exercise his discretion to act directly on the [district attorney’s] request and immediately investigate the voting irregularities and potential voter fraud in Highland Park, Mr. Abbott’s office has instead used his office’s resources to prosecute elderly political activists whose only ‘crime’ was assisting elderly and disabled voters cast a vote by mail.”
I would have liked to know a lot more about this. If this was a violation of the law – and it sure sounds like it was – why isn’t local law enforcement pursuing it? Surely this isn’t the sole jurisdiction of the AG, is it? Are there any public statements about this case beyond Hebert’s testimony? Can someone file a complaint and force there to be an investigation of some kind? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, and I wish the story had at least asked them.
The other omission is the continued effort by Republicans to require a photo ID to vote in person, which many party leaders including AG Abbott himself insists is needed to combat an allegedly massive epidemic of fraud-by-impersonation in the state. Yet every single case Abbott has pursued has involved absentee voting, which would not be affected by any of the voter ID bills that have been filed in recent legislative sessions. It might have been interesting to ask a Leo Berman or a Debbie Riddle – or if you want to go back a session, a Mary Denny – why it is that AG Abbott has never brought charges against any voter-impersonator. You’d think he could at least find one, given his dedication to the effort and the enormous PR victory that such a prosecution would bring to the pro-ID forces. Sadly, the subject was not explored. So do read the story, but keep these things in mind as you do.