When Texans vote, their choices are supposed to be secret. But that wasn’t true during a racially charged City Council election in this Dallas suburb last June, according to allegations under investigation by the district attorney’s office. Workers at one polling place here openly supported a white incumbent over a black challenger, according to complaints filed with the county and state. One of the workers looked at ballots and discussed with the others how black residents had voted. The poll workers also improperly used their cellphones to urge supporters of the white candidate to come vote, according to a statement submitted to the county elections board by another poll worker, a Hispanic woman.
The three poll workers at the center of the allegations have denied wrongdoing. One, election judge Rick Cook, told The Dallas Morning News in an interview that he did see how some voters marked their ballots and discussed their choices with other poll workers, but not with the intent of influencing voters.
Poll workers, who are paid volunteers, check voters’ IDs and answer their questions but are not supposed to sway votes “by word, sign or gesture,” according to the oath they take. While the workers may inadvertently see how someone fills out a ballot, they cannot disclose that information. They also are not supposed to use cellphones for anything other than official duties.