Democrats first asked for an investigation into Texas mail-in ballot fraud.
But three years after a Fort Worth Democrat claimed mail-in fraud cost him a Texas House seat, a Dallas Democrat says Republicans are turning the investigation into a partisan playground.
“I want this [election] fraud stopped and I’m worried about seniors in my district being abused this way,” state Rep. Eric Johnson said Thursday. He’s called for county and state investigators to look into fraudulent “harvesting” of mail ballots.
“But Democrats are concerned that Republicans will use this very real issue of mail-in ballot fraud,” he said, “and pretend they’ve been right all along about things that aren’t related, like voter ID. They’ll say, ‘Look! See? We’ve always had all this voter fraud.’ ”
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Tarrant County’s investigation began a year ago after 18-year state Rep. Lon Burnam challenged a 110-vote 2014 loss to now-state Rep. Ramon Romero.
Courts refused to allow a review of the mail-in ballot applications, but Burnam never quit saying the election was “stolen,” along with a May 2016 Fort Worth city charter election where votes from the last precinct reporting swung a 183-vote margin.
Ballot harvesting has plagued local elections for years, and technology has made it easier.
In Dallas last month, 700 city council election ballots were impounded as suspicious. WFAA/Channel 8 has reported on voters mysteriously receiving ballots they never requested, and others showing up to vote but finding someone else already used their name.
Ballot harvesting has plagued local elections for years, and technology has made it easier. A voter’s signature can be captured on a mail-in application for one election, then forged later to apply for ballots in other elections.
Johnson himself co-authored a reform bill setting stricter rules for voting in nursing homes, preventing anyone from forging a ballot.
I don’t want us to make it harder for seniors to vote, or disenfranchise voters.
State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas
But he’s concerned that Gov. Greg Abbott wants stricter laws rushed through as one of 20 assignments in a 30-day special session.
“We had a really good bill that brought both parties together,” he said.
“But it took time. It’s not easy to tinker with the Election Code. … I don’t want us to make it harder for seniors to vote, or disenfranchise voters. I’m concerned something is being cooked up for us to pass in a few days.”
State Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, has been given the job of cooking up that reform bill for the session starting July 18, along with state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills.
“We’re perfecting the language,” Goldman said Thursday.
“Eric’s one of the first people we’ll reach out to. He’s been one of the people in the forefront on this issue.”
At the very least, the Legislature might stiffen the punishment. Ballot harvesting can draw as little as 180 days in jail or a $2,000 fine.
“We’ve seen what goes on here,” Goldman said.
The question is who’ll help stop it.