Top Texas Republicans are now telling supporters that widespread fraudulent voting — an issue their base cares deeply about but officials have long been unable to prove — could tip this November’s election contests to Democrats.
The warning comes as Republicans worry their party faces a massive enthusiasm gap compared to Democrats in the final weeks before the election.
Local Texas Republican officials told supporters this week the party lacks volunteers who typically help with the voting process — needed to oversee polling places already swamped with lines in the first days of early voting.
“We are short of election judges, we are short of election clerks, we are short of poll watchers,” Fort Worth GOP Chair Darl Easton told a gathering of the NE Tarrant Tea Party recently. “We have 38 voting location precincts without a Republican judge or a clerk… so our next line of stop is to get a poll watcher to watch those poll locations.”
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Referring to the arrest of four Tarrant County residents suspected of voting fraud earlier this month, Easton said: “[Voter fraud perpetrators] did the mail-in ballots, and they’ll try to do at their location if they’re unwatched.”
Texas has roughly 15.8 million voters registered to participate in the 2018 midterms.
Multiple Republican-led panels seeking to root out voter fraud on a national scale — including one commissioned by President George W. Bush — have concluded the incidents are rare.
Yet officials in Texas have continued to invest significant time and resources to punishing fraudulent voting at the demand of an eager Republican base, including boosting the penalty for punishing voter fraud from a misdemeanor to a felony.
“I’m just going to call it out the way I see it, you have the Affluenza Teen who killed what? Three people? And gets probation,” said Domingo Garcia, a Dallas resident who serves as the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens. “Then you have an African American female who votes because she thinks she can... and she gets eight years in prison.”
Affluenza Teen Ethan Couch caused a fatal car accident while drunk, and was released earlier this year from a Texas jail after serving about two years. His attorneys argued he should get rehabilitation rather than prison.
The woman Garcia referred to, Crystal Mason, voted in the 2016 presidential election while on a supervised release from a 2011 fraud conviction. Mason says she was never told she couldn’t vote.
Republicans at the tea party gathering say the recent string of arrests in Tarrant County vindicates Texas’s years of work on this issue.
“This has been a long time coming and we’re really excited,” said Aaron Harris, a GOP consultant who in past years pushed members of his party to self-report voter fraud to a tip line that offered a cash prize for convictions.
People used to think “this election fraud stuff was tinfoil hat,” added Harris. “What we did was we made it very visual.”