Editorial: How Texas steals your voting rights while you are sleeping | The Houston Chronicle

Ask yourself: If Texas voters are truly clamoring loud and clear, in broad daylight, for the voting restrictions that GOP leaders tell them will protect election security, why do lawmakers insist on passing the legislation in the dead of night? There’s a certain irony, and brazen hypocrisy, in the fact that Republican senators were perfectly comfortable voting past midnight last month on a bill that would ensure Texas voters cannot do the same at the late-night polling places Republicans are trying to ban. Of course, resorting to desperate and unusual methods to pass controversial pet legislation is not novel in Texas. Back in 2016, the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals remarked with obvious skepticism at the “virtually unprecedented” treatment officials gave Texas’ harsh voter ID legislation in 2011 — such as bestowing it with emergency designation, suspending rules to expedite, bypassing regular committee processes in both chambers. The court said the “radical procedural departures” lent credence to accusations of “discriminatory intent.” You don’t say.

Full Article: Editorial: The Big Lie – How Texas steals your voting rights while you are sleeping

Texas Democrats ask for federal review of House Elections Committee after voting bill debacle | Lauren McGaughy/Dallas Morning News

Four Texas Democrats have asked the federal government to monitor the goings-on inside a state House committee after they accused the chairman of trying to avoid public debate on a divisive elections bill. On Thursday, Briscoe Cain, chairman of the House Committee on Elections, ultimately succeeded in getting his nine-member panel to approve Senate Bill 7, a GOP-backed omnibus bill that would tighten voting laws in Texas. Cain, a Deer Park Republican, first brought the bill up for a vote in the morning without any warning, Democrats on his committee complained, denying them the chance to notify the public so a public hearing could be held. But Thursday night, after the Republican majority committee voted down several amendments to the bill, it approved the legislation on a 5-4 vote along partisan lines. No public debate was heard. The incident prompted the committee’s Democrats to send a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and urge the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to review what happened and monitor the committee “if deemed appropriate.” The letter also accused Cain of repeatedly violating rules and “silencing opposing viewpoints.” “The way we have been treated is emblematic of the majority’s view on minority participation in our democracy. The viewpoints of minorities are an unimportant nuisance that is an obstacle to their continued control of Texas,” the signatories wrote, saying female Democrats “have been belittled, talked over, and disrespected.”

Full Article: Democrats ask for federal review of Texas House Elections Committee after voting bill debacle

Texas Republicans Target Voter Access in Cities, but Not Rural Areas | Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

Voting in the 2020 election presented Zoe Douglas with a difficult choice: As a therapist meeting with patients over Zoom late into the evening, she just wasn’t able to wrap up before polls closed during early voting. Then Harris County introduced 24-hour voting for a single day. At 11 p.m. on the Thursday before the election, Ms. Douglas joined fast-food workers, nurses, construction workers, night owls and other late-shift workers at NRG Arena, one of eight 24-hour voting sites in the county, where more than 10,000 people cast their ballots in a single night. “I can distinctly remember people still in their uniforms — you could tell they just got off of work, or maybe they’re going to work; a very diverse mix,” said Ms. Douglas, 27, a Houston native. Twenty-four-hour voting was one of a host of options Harris County introduced to help residents cast ballots, along with drive-through voting and proactively mailing out ballot applications. The new alternatives, tailored to a diverse work force struggling amid a pandemic in Texas’ largest county, helped increase turnout by nearly 10 percent compared with 2016; nearly 70 percent of registered voters cast ballots, and a task force found that there was no evidence of any fraud.

Full Article: Republicans Target Voter Access in Texas Cities, but Not Rural Areas – The New York Times

In Texas, GOP voting bills zero in on Democratic Houston | Paul J. Weber/Associated Press

The nation’s next big voting battle underway in Texas would outlaw 24-hour polling places, drive-thru voting and make it a crime for elections officials to mail unsolicited absentee ballot applications. Put another way: Everything Houston — the state’s biggest Democratic stronghold — did to expand ballot access last year, when the threat of the coronavirus made voting in-person more hazardous. Amid a GOP-led campaign to tighten voting laws, Republican lawmakers in in Texas have been unusually explicit in zeroing in on Houston and surrounding Harris County as they push to tighten the state’s voting laws. One of the country’s largest and most racially diverse counties, Harris rolled out new ways to vote in 2020 on a scale like nowhere else in Texas. Although there is no evidence of fraud resulting from votes cast from cars or in the dead of night, Republicans are determined to prevent it from happening again. The effort is one of the clearest examples of how the GOP’s nationwide campaign to tighten voting laws can target Democrats, even as they insist the measures are not partisan. With Americans increasingly sorted into liberal urban areas and conservative rural ones, geography can be an effective proxy for partisanship. Proposals tailored to cities or that take population into account are bound to have a greater impact on Democratic voters. That’s likely the case in Georgia, where a new voting law prescribes the number absentee ballot drop boxes per county and uses a formula based on the number of registered voters or early voting sites. Election officials in the Atlanta area have said the change will slash the number of drop boxes available to their voters when compared to 2020 levels.

Full Article: In Texas, GOP voting bills zero in on Democratic Houston

Editorial: The Big Lie – If voter fraud is an epidemic, why can’t Texas find it? | Houston Chronicle

We dare you. Name a state official anywhere in this nation who yearns to snuff out voter fraud more than the steadfast soldiers of election security here in Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott, in his feverish clairvoyance, declared voter fraud an “epidemic” way back in 2005, when he was still attorney general, and launched a unit to root it out. His successor, Ken Paxton, beefed up his election integrity unit last year, with prosecutors toiling more than 22,000 hours on the taxpayers’ dime hunting for polling improprieties. In November, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick topped them all by dangling a $1 million bounty, payable from his own campaign account, to anyone who came forward with information leading to a voter fraud conviction. So, if voter fraud is the scourge of our democracy, if it’s capable of stealing a presidential election, as some claim, if it’s widespread enough to qualify for “emergency” status in the state Legislature to ratchet up voting restrictions, then surely, the proof of its magnitude lies in Texas. Indeed it does. After 15 years of looking for election fraud among the 94 million votes cast in Texas elections since 2005, the Texas Attorney General’s office has dutifully prosecuted all of 155 people. Add to that 19 cases cataloged by the conservative Heritage Foundation, which include federal and county prosecutions, and you get a grand total of 174. That’s not a typo. It’s not 174,000 or 17,400 or even 1,740.

Full Article: Editorial: The Big Lie – If voter fraud is an epidemic, why can’t Texas find it?

Texas voting bills target Democratic strongholds, just like Georgia’s new laws | Jeremy Wallace/Houston Chronicle

After major corporations criticized Georgia for adopting voter restrictions in the wake of Democratic wins there, the spotlight is shifting to Texas as Republican lawmakers advance similar legislation. And just as Georgia Republicans sought to rein in Fulton County — a heavily Democratic county that includes the city of Atlanta — Texas Republicans are targeting large counties run by Democrats with measures that provide possible jail time for local officials who try to expand voting options or who promote voting by mail. That same push is happening in Arizona and Iowa, said Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law. “All of these bills share a common purpose: to threaten the independence of election workers whose main job should be to ensure fair elections free from political or other interference,” Norden said. The Senate is particularly intent on preventing a repeat of 2020, when the interim Harris County clerk, Chris Hollins, promoted novel approaches such as 24-hour voting sites and drive-thru polling places as safe alternatives to indoor voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Democrat-leaning county saw historic turnout that helped Joe Biden come within 5.5 percentage points of the incumbent, Republican Donald Trump.

Full Article: Texas voting bills target Democratic strongholds, just like Georgia’s new laws

Texas: Kolkhorst’s bill requiring a paper trail for all elections systems passes unanimously | Victoria Advocate

The Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill authored by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst to require a voter-verifiable paper audit trail for all elections systems, according to a Tuesday news release. Senate Bill 598 also prohibits any voting system from being connected to the internet and includes a risk limiting audit to ensure the accuracy of voting systems, according to the news release. The bill was passed in the Senate Monday. Texas will be considered to have one of the most accurate vote counting systems in the nation, said a news release from the state senator’s office. Texas is one of only three states that uses a paperless trail system in some areas. “In 2005, I filed one of the first bills calling for a paper ballot trail to combat election fraud,” said Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. “After many visits with so many concerned constituents and years of efforts I am glad to see this through. Elections are the bedrock of our republic and ensuring that our elections are conducted to the highest standards possible is a must.”

Full Article: Kolkhorst’s bill requiring a paper trail for all elections systems passes unanimously | Victoria | victoriaadvocate.com

Texas GOP voting restrictions: Color blind or “Jim Crow in a tuxedo”? | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

Two nights of voting in Houston, eight months apart, each occurring as midnight slipped by, lay bare the fault line cutting through Texas’ ongoing debate about voter suppression. First, the March 3, 2020, presidential primary. On the campus of Texas Southern University, a historically Black college, hundreds waited in a line that wrapped through a campus library and out into a courtyard for four hours, then five, then six after polls were supposed to close at 7 p.m. — the result of an unexpected surge of Democratic voters and a mismanagement of voting machines. Then in November, Houston residents — most of them people of color — were again voting after hours in the general election, but this time it was intentional. Harris County had set up a day of 24-hour voting to make it easier for voters, like shift workers, who face difficulty getting to the polls during traditional hours. The first scene was one of frustration and disenfranchisement, not unusual in a state with some of the strictest voting rules in the nation. The second felt celebratory, a moment when it seemed democracy went right and people were welcomed to the voting booth.

Full Article: Texas GOP voting restrictions: Color blind or “Jim Crow in a tuxedo”? | The Texas Tribune

Texas: After Georgia, Voting Fight Moves to Texas | Elizabeth Findell/Wall Street Journal

The battle over voting rules has shifted to Texas, following recent legislation in Georgia that led to a backlash from civil-rights groups and some major corporations. The Texas legislature is advancing a bill that would limit early voting hours, place more restrictions on people who provide assistance with voting, control the number of voting machines at each location and allow partisan poll watchers to record video or photos of people voting, among other measures. The Texas State House is expected to begin hearings on the bill soon, which passed the state Senate around 2 a.m. on April 1 in an 18-13 party-line vote. Republican state leaders said the omnibus elections bill would improve confidence in elections and set uniform standards across the state’s 254 counties. Democrats said it would make it more difficult to vote, particularly in urban areas and minority districts, and could allow voter intimidation. The bill, along with others filed in Texas, comes as Republican lawmakers across the country have proposed new limits for mail-in voting and other electoral changes. Georgia emerged as an early hot spot after Republicans passed a bill along party lines in late March that added vote-by-mail identification requirements and limited ballot drop boxes. Passage of the bill prompted Major League Baseball to pull this year’s All-Star game from Atlanta and garnered opposition from companies including Delta Air Lines Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the bill, called the criticism partisan.

Full Article: After Georgia, Voting Fight Moves to Texas – WSJ

Texas: Her Ballot Didn’t Count. She Faces 5 Years in Prison for Casting It. | Christina Morales/The New York Times

On Election Day 2016, Crystal Mason went to vote after her mother insisted that she make her voice heard in the presidential election. When her name didn’t appear on official voting rolls at her polling place in Tarrant County, Texas, she filled out a provisional ballot, not thinking anything of it. Ms. Mason’s ballot was never officially counted or tallied because she was ineligible to vote: She was on supervised release after serving five years for tax fraud. Nonetheless, that ballot has wrangled her into a lengthy appeals process after a state district court sentenced her to five years in prison for illegal voting, as she was a felon on probation when she cast her ballot. Ms. Mason maintains that she didn’t know she was ineligible to vote. “This is very overwhelming, waking up every day knowing that prison is on the line, trying to maintain a smile on your face in front of your kids and you don’t know the outcome,” Ms. Mason said in a phone interview. “Your future is in someone else’s hands because of a simple error.” Her case is now headed for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest state court for criminal cases, whose judges said on Wednesday that they had decided to hear it. Ms. Mason unsuccessfully asked for a new trial and lost her case in an appellate court. This new appeal is the last chance for Ms. Mason, 46, who is out on appeal bond, to avoid prison. If her case has to advance to the federal court system, Ms. Mason would have to appeal from a cell.

Full Article: Her Ballot Didn’t Count. She Faces 5 Years in Prison for Casting It. – The New York Times

Texas: GOP voting bills draw business opposition, much to Dan Patrick’s displeasure | Chuck Lindell/Austin American-Statesman

Protecting business from government obstacles is a political priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, but the conservative Republican is not a fan when businesses become obstacles to his hard-charging agenda. Patrick lashed out at American Airlines after the nation’s largest air carrier announced that it is “strongly opposed” to Senate Bill 7, a Patrick priority that passed the Senate on Thursday — with Republicans praising it for improving election integrity, while Democrats, civil rights groups and other opponents called it a naked bid to suppress voting rights. “As a Texas-based business, we must stand up for the rights of our team members and customers who call Texas home, and honor the sacrifices made by generations of Americans to protect and expand the right to vote,” American Airlines said Thursday in a statement. “At American, we believe we should break down barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion in our society — not create them.” Patrick issued his own statement, saying he was stunned by the Fort Worth-based airline’s stand. “Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy.” he said. “The majority of Texans support maintaining the integrity of our elections, which is why I made it a priority this legislative session.”

Full Article: GOP voting bills draw business opposition in Texas

Texas court to hear appeal from woman sentenced to prison for voting while ineligible | Sam Levine/The Guardian

Texas’ highest criminal appeals court said Wednesday it would hear an appeal from a Texas woman who was sentenced to five years in prison for voting while inadvertently ineligible in 2016. The case has attracted national attention because of the severity of the sentence and the woman, Crystal Mason, said she did not know she was ineligible to vote at the time. Many saw the severe sentence as an obvious effort to intimidate Black voters. The case also comes amid an aggressive effort by Texas prosecutors, including attorney general Ken Paxton, to prosecute even election crimes. Mason was serving on supervised release – which is similar to probation – for a federal felony conviction at the time, and Texas prohibits people with felony convictions from voting until they have completed their sentences entirely. Officials overseeing Mason’s supervised release testified at her trial that they never informed her she was ineligible to vote. An appeals court in Fort Worth upheld Mason’s conviction last year, saying “the fact that she did not know she was legally ineligible to vote was irrelevant to her prosecution”. The Texas court of criminal appeals, the highest criminal appellate court in Texas, said Wednesday it would hear the case.

Full Article: Texas court to hear appeal from woman sentenced to prison for voting while ineligible | Texas | The Guardian

The Texas GOP is still furious about Harris County’s drive-thru voting | Abigail Rosenthal/Houston Chronicle

Texas Republicans aren’t going to let drive-thru voting go anytime soon, it seems. Several legislators have filed bills targeting drive-thru voting during this legislative session. The heftiest of the GOP’s “election security” bills, Senate Bill 7, bars tents, parking garages, parking lots or any “similar facility designed primarily for motor vehicles” for voting—venues many Harris County residents used to vote from their cars during the 2020 presidential, state and local elections. The bill also completely bans voting from cars unless the voter is “physically unable to enter the polling place” and only allows the voter and someone assisting the voter in the car. The assistant must also sign forms confirming the voter is unable to enter the polling place and explaining his or her relationship with the voter, why assistance was necessary, and what specific assistance was provided to the voter. Harris County implemented drive-thru voting during the 2020 election to expand voter participation during the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of residents were able to vote from their cars.

Full Article: The Texas GOP is still furious about Harris County’s drive-thru voting

Texas ballot paper trail bill advances to elections committee | KTRE

A bill requiring electronic voting machines to produce a traceable paper ballot has moved forward to its committee assignment. Filed by Rep. James White (R-Woodville) in February, H.B. 1708 advanced to the Elections committee on Wednesday. If passed as-is, White’s bill would require the disclosure of ownership interest with voting devices. Now, the legislator has filed a measure to require a paper record after voting on electronic machines. “There are times when we have very hotly-contested elections, and they come out very close results,” White said. “That’s not a problem. Instead of just hitting a button and having some program just spit out the same data, we want to be able to have, throughout the state, paper ballots; a paper trail.” House Bill 1708 authored by District 19 State House Representative James White (R) calls for a voter-verifiable paper record from electronic voting machines. “When our laws allow for candidates to call for recounts, there’s something to recount,” White said. “There’s a paper ballot trail where our county clerks and other stakeholders can do a recount.”

Full Article: Rep. White’s ballot paper trail bill advances to elections committee

Texas Republican Lawmakers File 7 ‘Election Integrity’ Bills That Could Limit Voter Access | Andrew Schneider/Houston Public Media

Republican lawmakers have filed seven bills that would change voting access in Texas, including a law to limit the hours counties can keep ballot locations open during the state’s early voting period. State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who authored the bills, argued they’re necessary to force local governments to comply with the Texas Elections Code. “The seven bills themselves really represent my ideas to make sure that we have integrity in the voter roll as well as in the election system,” Bettencourt said. One of the proposed laws filed Friday, SB 1115, would require all counties to observe the same early voting hours and days, prohibiting counties from expanding their hours as Harris County did last fall with the state’s first-ever 24-hour voting sites. “In Harris County’s case,” Bettencourt said, “you have code that allows people to have very extended hours in early voting, but not on Election Day. When you look out in some of the counties surrounding Harris County, they don’t even go to 7 p.m. So, I think that the concept here is to have a standard 12-hour voting day, regardless of whether it’s early voting or Election Day.” Another measure, SB 1111, would requires the voter to provide documentation that the voter lives at the address where they are registered when they receive a confirmation request from the registrar. Bettencourt said this is specifically aimed at barring people from registering using a private P.O. box.

Full Article: Republican Lawmakers File 7 ‘Election Integrity’ Bills That Could Limit Voter Access – Houston Public Media

Texas: Harris County to spend $54 million on new voting machines, this time with paper backup | Zach Despart/Houston Chronicle

Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved spending $54 million on a fleet of new voting machines, choosing a model that produces a paper backup. The court unanimously selected the Hart InterCivic Verity machine to replace the e-Slate devices in use since 2002, which were also manufactured by the Austin election software company. “This has been thoroughly vetted. I’m very confident in the machines we’re selecting, in that they have everything that we’ve asked for,” said Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria. “They have triple data backups for election integrity and everything we need to keep elections safe.” The Verity model has a digital touch screen and more accessibility options for seniors and residents with disabilities. Longoria said her staff will determine whether debuting the 12,000 new machines is feasible for the May elections. For last year’s November general election, Harris County was the largest jurisdiction in the country to use a voting system that did not produce a paper backup, raising security concerns because elections could not be audited. “I’m so glad we’re getting paper ballots,” County Judge Lina Hidalgo said after voting to approve the new machines. “What a relief.”

Full Article: Harris County to spend $54 million on new voting machines, this time with paper backup

Texas Republicans were the most likely to use mail-in voting four years ago. Here’s how that flipped in the last election. | Karen Brooks Harper/The Texas Tribune

Democratic voters in Texas were more likely to cast their ballots by mail than Republican voters in the last election. Today, that may sound like a forgone conclusion, but that wasn’t the case four years ago. Absentee ballots, which only certain groups of Texans are eligible to use, have traditionally been a tool utilized by the GOP, and in 2016, counties reported that higher percentages of Republican voters cast absentee ballots than Democratic voters. The reason for the swap? It came from the top. Experts and political operatives note that President Donald Trump spent months attacking the credibility of mail-in voting to his Republican base while national and state Democrats launched their largest-ever push to support the method as a safe option to vote in the pandemic. Other factors at play this election season in Texas included an increase in participation by younger voters who lean Democratic, many of them college students living out of state. Democrats also were more likely to take coronavirus risks and precautions more seriously, leading them to look for ways to stay out of the polls during the pandemic, experts on both sides of the aisle said. In total, Texans cast 1 million absentee ballots before Election Day, up from less than 500,000 in 2016, according to the Texas secretary of state’s office. Martha Griffin, an Austin science educator who supported Joe Biden, said she voted absentee by claiming a disability caused by a chronic condition doctors said was brought on by COVID-19, which makes her dizzy easily and unable to stand for long periods, among other issues. She was also afraid of being contagious or contracting the virus again after being diagnosed in May. “When it came time to think about how to vote, I was kind of terrified,” said Griffin, 61, who was still suffering symptoms of COVID-19 in November, which qualified her for mail-in balloting.

Full Article: Texas Democrats were more likely to mail-in vote than Republicans in 2020 election | The Texas Tribune

Texas: Warning of fraud, Republicans seek to further tighten state voting laws | Houston Chronicle

As the country’s political polarization reaches a boiling point — illustrated vividly Wednesday by the violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of the president who believed his false claims that the election was stolen — Texas Republicans are seeking to make some of the nation’s strictest voting laws even stricter. They say the unrest sparked by the events Wednesday is likely to invigorate discussions over the matter in the state Legislature, where the 2021 session will begin Tuesday. Several election-related bills have been filed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — though their aims are in direct opposition, with Democrats looking to ease up laws they see as suppressing the vote and Republicans trying to curb the opportunities for the fraud they say plagued the 2020 election. Democrats have filed about two-thirds of the election-related bills, with the other third coming from Republicans. “If this week has highlighted anything, it’s that we need to protect and encourage democracy and that it’s fragile,” said Rep. John Bucy III, an Austin Democrat who sits on the House Elections Committee. “And so these types of bills are worth the investment.”

Full Article: Warning of fraud, Texas Republicans seek to further tighten state voting laws – HoustonChronicle.com

Texas: Ted Cruz accused of abetting sedition and inspiring pro-Trump riot by resisting Biden’s victory | Todd J. Gillman/Dallas Morning News

Although it was clear that President Donald Trump inspired the insurrection at the Capitol on Wednesday, Democrats pinned some of the blame on Sen. Ted Cruz, too, accusing him of promoting sedition and lawlessness by promoting Trump’s lies about election fraud. Cruz had been careful not to directly echo any of Trump’s more fanciful and baseless claims about ballot manipulation and cheating. But he did emerge as one of the two most ardent Senate advocates for blocking Congress from affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory on Wednesday, demanding a 10-day delay. “It is your self-serving attempt at sedition that has helped to inspire these terrorists and their attempted coup,” alleged Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso Democrat who came close to ousting Cruz in 2018. Just before 3 a.m. Thursday in Washington, with the House debating a challenge to the Pennsylvania electors that Cruz himself supported in the Senate – ending up on the losing side of a 92-7 vote – Cruz issued a full-throated rejection of the mob violence.

Full Article: Ted Cruz accused of abetting sedition and inspiring pro-Trump riot by resisting Biden’s victory

Texas: How Ted Cruz, Louie Gohmert, other GOPers undermined election confidence | Kate McGee/The Texas Tribune

When a federal court tossed U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert’s far-fetched lawsuit asking Vice President Mike Pence to challenge Joe Biden’s legitimacy as president-elect, the Texas Republican appeared to propose violence in response. “Basically, in effect, the ruling would be that you got to go to the streets and be as violent as Antifa and [Black…

Texas Republican Congressman Chip Roy objects to seating 67 lawmakers from states Trump disputes to highlight GOP election hypocrisy | Tom Benning/Dallas Morning News

Austin Rep. Chip Roy, in a dramatic escalation in the GOP feud over whether to challenge Democrat Joe Biden’s White House win, on Sunday night objected to the seating of his House colleagues elected in the six states where President Donald Trump disputes the results. Roy, a conservative firebrand, used the tactic to underscore his opposition to the efforts by some Republicans – including several Texans – to not certify Biden’s victory on Wednesday. The Republican’s point was that if anyone is claiming the presidential election in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin was marked by widespread fraud, then the same would have to hold true for the down-ballot candidates elected in those states. “Those representatives were elected through the very same systems — with the same ballot procedures, with the same signature validations, with the same broadly applied decisions of executive and judicial branch officials,” he said.

Full Article: Chip Roy objects to seating 67 lawmakers from states Trump disputes to highlight GOP election hypocrisy

Texas Attorney General Paxton urged White House to revoke Harris County COVID relief funds over mail ballots | St. John Barned-Smith and Benjamin Wermund/Houston Chronicle

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tried to get the Trump administration to revoke millions in federal COVID relief funding that Harris County budgeted for expanded mail-in voting earlier this year, newly revealed records show. Paxton wrote in a May 21 letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that Harris County’s plan was an “abuse” of the county’s authority and an “egregious” violation of state law. The letter was obtained and published by the Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “We respectfully ask the department to scrutinize its award of CARES Act funding to Harris County in light of the county’s stated intent to use federal funding in violation of state law, and to the extent possible, seek return of any amounts improperly spent on efforts to promote illegal mail-in voting,” Paxton wrote. “Without implementing adequate protections against unlawful abuse of mail-in ballots, the department could be cast in a position of involuntarily facilitating election fraud.” The letter to Mnuchin illustrates the lengths Paxton went in his efforts to stop Harris and other counties from making it easier to vote by mail during the pandemic, which included later suing Harris County to block its plan to send mail ballot applications to all 2.4 million of its registered voters. Under Texas law, voting by mail is only an option for people who are 65 and older, disabled, incarcerated or out of the county on election day.

Full Article: Texas AG Paxton urged White House to revoke Harris County COVID relief funds over mail ballots – HoustonChronicle.com

Texas: Pennsylvania Lt. Governor Fetterman relentlessly trolls Dan Patrick seeking $3M voter fraud bounty | Benjamin Wermund/Houston Chronicle

All John Fetterman wants for Christmas is the $3 million he says Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick owes him. The Democratic lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania has been trolling his Republican counterpart for weeks to collect on the $1 million Patrick offered in November for evidence of fraud in the Nov. 3 election. Three supporters of President Donald Trump have now been charged in separate voter fraud schemes in Pennsylvania. Fetterman says they should all count for bounty purposes. The most recent charges came this week — against the second Pennsylvania man to be accused of casting a ballot for Trump in the name of his deceased mother. “We hit the jackpot with this last one,” Fetterman said. “There are three documented cases — three.” “All I want for Christmas is my handsome reward from Dan Patrick,” Fetterman tweeted on Dec. 18 with a Christmas tree and pleading face emoji. Fetterman says he’ll donate the proceeds to food banks in the form of gift cards to Sheetz and Wawa, competing Pennsylvania convenience stores with die-hard followings. Patrick has responded to Fetterman just once, in a tweet in November that read: “Faith in the electoral process is a serious issue. Transparency is critical. PA Dems brought this on themselves w/ last minute changes to election laws and counting ballots behind closed doors. Respond to the reports. Answer the questions. Stop the snide put-downs and #getserious” Fetterman says he is serious — about debunking the false allegations being thrown at his state. He has taken the lead in Pennsylvania pushing back on bogus claims of voter fraud circulated by Trump and his allies. Patrick — honorary chairman of Trump’s campaign in Texas — and his million-dollar reward are helping to disprove those claims, Fetterman says.

Full Article: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Fetterman relentlessly trolls Dan Patrick seeking $1M voter fraud bounty – HoustonChronicle.com

Texas: Ken Paxton’s beefed-up 2020 voter fraud unit closed 16 minor cases, all in Harris County | Taylor Goldenstein/Houston Chronicle

The Texas Attorney General’s office this year almost doubled the amount of time it spent looking into and working on voter fraud cases in 2018 — more than 22,000 staff hours — yet resolved just 16 prosecutions, half as many as in 2018, records show.All 16 cases involved Harris County residents who gave false addresses on their voter registration forms. None of them received any jail time.Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has made the hunt for voter fraud a top priority of his office, between January and October gave the election integrity unit access to eight additional law enforcement sergeants on top of the nine already assigned to it, and doubled the number of prosecutors to four, according to records obtained from the agency by nonprofit government watchdog American Oversight and shared with Hearst Newspapers.In its 15 years of its existence, the unit has prosecuted a few dozen cases in which offenders received jail time, none of them involving widespread fraud. Paxton’s approach to the issue is the same as that of other top Texas Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott who earlier this month backed the attorney general’s last-ditch election suit at the Supreme Court challenging president-elect Joe Biden’s win in four battleground states — relentlessly insist voter fraud is a major concern while citing no evidence that it is prevalent. As President Donald Trump claimed that the election was stolen from him in early November, Patrick went so far as to offer a $1 million reward for tips leading to voter fraud convictions anywhere in the country.

Full Article: Ken Paxton’s beefed-up 2020 voter fraud unit closed 16 minor cases, all in Harris County – HoustonChronicle.com

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has had Trump’s back. But his latest gambit has failed. | Arelis R. Hernández and Maria Sacchetti/The Washington Post

The Texas attorney general who tried to orchestrate President Trump’s last stand spent most of his career under indictment for state securities fraud, but his closeness to the president had buffed that tarnish. Trump listens to Ken Paxton. He called so often the White House once caught him in the shower. And the state attorney general had the digits to call him back. Paxton’s star seemed ascendant as he positioned himself as one of Trump’s biggest allies, willing to fight legal battles on sanctuary cities, the Affordable Care Act and now the outcome of the presidential election. But the shadows over Texas’s folksy attorney general have been growing longer. Trump has lost the election. Paxton’s last-gasp effort to overturn the outcome via the U.S. Supreme Court has failed. His top deputies recently reported him to the FBI for alleged crimes such as bribery. And the Associated Press has reported that he cheated on his wife, Angela Paxton, who is a Republican state senator in Texas. Paxton, a tea party darling known as a shrewd politician, did not respond to requests for comment, but he appeared cheerful Thursday as he spoke to a conservative commentator on YouTube before heading into the Oval Office to talk about his petition seeking to dismiss the election results. “It’s our last chance, and it may be our last chance forever,” Paxton said in an interview with conservative commentator Steven Crowder. “Because if this gets set this way, I mean, we may never have elections again that we can count on.” After he spoke, the Austin American-Statesman reported that FBI agents served at least one subpoena at his office 1,500 miles away. The FBI declined to comment.

Full Article: Ken Paxton has had Trump’s back. But the Texas attorney general’s latest gambit has failed. – The Washington Post

Texas: Carrollton Democrat proposes changing state law to let hand marked paper ballot counties to have countywide vote centers | James Barragán/Dallas Morning News

State Rep. Michelle Beckley wants to bring countywide voting centers to Denton, which would allow residents to vote at any polling location in the county. To do so, she is pushing a bill in the Legislature to allow counties with paper-based ballots, like Denton, to participate in the state’s countywide polling place program. “You run for office and you want to increase voter turnout,” said Beckley, a Carrollton Democrat who considers this bill her top priority for the 2021 session that begins next month. “You just need to make it easier and less confusing.” Currently, to operate a countywide polling program, a county must use all electronic equipment to count votes. Denton County uses paper-based ballots that voters fill out by hand and are then scanned electronically into the voting system. Beckley’s bill would add language into the election code allowing counties that use such technology into the state’s countywide vote center program. “I think that’s a positive development,” said David Jones, president of the nonpartisan Clean Elections Texas. “We’re in favor of anything that makes it easier for people to vote.”

Full Article: Carrollton Democrat proposes changing Texas law to let Denton have countywide vote centers

Texas can’t block votes cast in other states. Absurdly, it’s trying. | Lisa Marshall Manheim/The Washington Post

In Texas, Republicans have worked hard to impose burdens on voters — at least, within the state’s own borders. But now they have grander plans. On Tuesday, Texas filed a lawsuit announcing its desire to interfere with voting processes in other states across the country. The lawsuit has no merit. It will fail. The effort though represents a galling expansion of Texas officials’ disregard for voters and the electoral process. In anticipation of the 2020 elections, Texas set a plan for its voters. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the plan included shuttering voting locations and refusing to meaningfully expand registration or mail-in voting options. The pandemic, in turn, convinced Texas officials to race into court — but not to ensure that voters could safely cast a ballot. Instead, officials litigated to prevent voters from securing a mail-in ballot for the purpose of avoiding the virus. Republican plaintiffs, including a member of the Texas House of Representatives, tried to convince courts to invalidate the votes of over 100,000 Texans who had voted at outdoor polling locations designed to reduce risks of contagion. Yet another line of litigation saw Texas officials vigorously defending voters’ ability to enter a polling place without wearing a mask. Efforts of this sort will help Texas to retain an ignominious title: hardest state in the country in which to cast a ballot. And yet that anti-democratic trophy appears not to be enough. At least, it is not enough for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who seeks to overturn the 2020 presidential election results by suing four swing states that already have certified victories for President-elect Joe Biden. (Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, also a Republican, announced late Tuesday that he was joining the lawsuit, and President Trump claimed Wednesday morning that he too would “be intervening” in the case.) Audaciously, Texas filed these claims directly in the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

Full Article: The Texas Supreme Court lawsuit won’t go anywhere – The Washington Post

Texas files an audacious suit with the Supreme Court challenging the election results. | Adam Liptak/The New York Times

The state of Texas filed an audacious lawsuit in the Supreme Court on Tuesday against four other states, asking the justices to extend the Dec. 14 deadline for certification of presidential electors. The suit, filed by the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, said Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had engaged in election irregularities that require investigation, and it asked the court to “enjoin the use of unlawful election results without review and ratification by the defendant states’ legislatures.” Legal experts called the suit outlandish, and it comes at a time when Mr. Paxton is battling a scandal in his own state over whistle-blower allegations that he engaged in bribery and other wrongdoing to illegally help a wealthy Austin real estate developer and political donor. “It looks like we have a new leader in the ‘craziest lawsuit filed to purportedly challenge the election’ category,” Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, wrote on Twitter. The Constitution gives the Supreme Court “original jurisdiction” to hear disputes “in which a state shall be party.” In such cases, the Supreme Court acts much like a trial court, appointing a special master to hear evidence and issue recommendations. Though the Constitution seems to require the court to hear cases brought by states, the court has ruled that it has discretion to turn them down and often does. When the court does exercise its original jurisdiction, it is usually to adjudicate disputes between two states over issues like water rights. In 2016, the justices turned down a request from Nebraska and Oklahoma to file a challenge to Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana. The states said the Colorado law had spillover effects, taxing neighboring states’ criminal justice systems and hurting the health of their residents.

Full Article: Texas files an audacious suit with the Supreme Court challenging the election results. – The New York Times

Texas sues over election results in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania | Emma Platoff/The Texas Tribune

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing four battleground states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — whose election results handed the White House to President-elect Joe Biden. In the suit, he claims that pandemic-era changes to election procedures in those states violated federal law and asks the U.S. Supreme Court to block the states from voting in the Electoral College. The last-minute bid, which legal experts have already characterized as a long shot, comes alongside dozens of similar attempts by President Donald Trump and his political allies. The majority of those lawsuits have already failed. There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, officials in most states and U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr have said. Biden won in all four states where Paxton is challenging the results. In a filing to the high court Tuesday, Paxton claims the four battleground states broke the law by instituting pandemic-related changes to election policies, whether “through executive fiat or friendly lawsuits, thereby weakening ballot integrity.” Paxton claimed that these changes allowed for voter fraud to occur — a conclusion experts and election officials have rejected — and said the court should push back a Dec. 14 deadline by which states must appoint their presidential electors.

Full Article: Texas sues over election results in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania | The Texas Tribune

Texas: Rep. Ron Wright calls for investigation of election amid unsubstantiated fraud claims | Brian Lopez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Wright of Arlington is calling for an investigation into the 2020 election after Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Since Joe Biden won the election, President Donald Trump has challenged the result in key states with lawsuits, but Trump has found no success. In a statement Monday, Wright said he urges Barr to appoint a special counsel as it would ensure that allegations of voter fraud are investigated to the fullest extent by the Justice Department. Wright said an investigation would “ultimately restore the American people’s utmost faith in our democratic system.” The statement did not clarify if Wright was talking only about the presidential election or every election, which would include his victory. The Star-Telegram reached out to Wright, but his office did not immediately respond. Wright joins Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as Texas officials who have at one point refused to acknowledge Biden as the winner and have claimed that all legal votes need to be counted. Political experts have said Republicans don’t want to get on the bad side of the party and Trump, who is still in office, so they still voice support for him.

Full Article: Arlington TTX congressman wants investigation of election | Fort Worth Star-Telegram