Stealing votes through mail-in ballot harvesting is not unique to Tarrant County, or even Texas. Last fall, a harvesting scheme was uncovered in St. Louis, Missouri. Candidate for State Rep. Bruce Franks, Jr. was the victim of this type of fraud in his race against incumbent State Rep. Penny Hubbard. Numerous ballots were found to be fraudulent. His race was stolen.
Direct Action Texas has been notified that investigators with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) have been spotted in Harrison County. This brings the total number of ongoing investigations due to DAT complaints of vote irregularities to three separate counties.
Last year , Direct Action Texas found that 19.29% of all the votes in the Hill County Republican primary lacked voters to correspond with the alleged votes. Those ballots have been seized by the AG’s office and an investigation is ongoing.
The Tarrant County investigation has been described as the largest voter fraud investigation the state has seen. Mr. Harris, the executive director of DAT, claimed that numerous elected officials in Tarrant County, including a state representative, have been involved in what is referred to as a vote harvesting operation. DAT’s investigation has uncovered tens of thousands of these harvested ballots. The operation is similar to the activities uncovered in Hidalgo and Cameron Counties back in 2011-12. That investigation resulted in numerous felony convictions. While the Tarrant County operation is similar to that of the valley, the scope is much larger.
Late in 2016, DAT received a tip of vote harvesting in Harrison County, located in far East Texas. After a brief investigation, DAT referred it to the Secretary of State, who referred it to the OAG. Earlier this week, agents from the OAG were spotted around Harrison County, including the county elections office.
“The fact that our work has resulted in three ongoing investigations makes me proud of our team and the quality of our work, ” said Aaron Harris. “We are not aware of any organization who has uncovered this much election fraud, much less in such a short period of time. To those committing these crimes – the gig is up, ” he continued.
DAT is currently investigating vote harvesting in Dallas County, which has already uncovered the involvement of both currently and previously elected officials. “This investigation is very promising and appears that it may be our largest investigation yet.”
In 2014, a Texas judge blocked former State Rep. Lon Burnam from viewing suspicious applications and ballot envelopes he claimed led to his re-election defeat. Burnam alleged that hundreds of applications for ballot-by-mail were submitted with fraudulent electronic signatures.
The use of electronic signatures is a preferred tool of illegal vote-harvesters. It allows them to capture hundreds of signatures on iPads under the guise of a fake “petition drive,” unrelated to any candidate election. Then they digitally insert those signatures onto ballot by mail applications year after year, which are then faxed into the local county elections office.
A top-ranking county official in one of Texas most conservative counties is facing harsh criticism for attempting to use his political position for personal gain.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley recently pushed to improperly award a “no-bid” contract to a client of his government-accounting firm, Whitley-Penn.
During a November 8th, 2016 meeting of the Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court, Judge Whitley championed the idea of greater efficiency in county employee health care.
There was an urgent crisis and Whitley had the solution—pay $5,000 to a vendor, Integer Health Technologies, to study the county’s healthcare data. Then examine their findings and award Integer a $400,000-$500,000 annual contract.
The three County Commissioners present, along with several staffers, did not share Whitley’s enthusiasm for the deal.
Both Commissioners Johnson and Brooks were not pleased when It was later revealed that the initial cost rose by $12,000. Commissioner Brooks, a reliable ally of Whitley, stated, “I must admit that we’re not starting off real well going from a $5,000 expense to a $17,000 expense.”
Commissioner Nguyen firmly voiced concerns about fair bidding practices, as are required by state law. Awarding Integer the initial contract without seeking alternative bids would give them an “unfair competitive advantage” over another vendor who could later bid for the same contract.
Whitley and Integer attempted to improperly use an exception to avoid competitive bidding by claiming the company was the “sole source” for this technology. Sole source is a label applied to companies for which there is no competitor. But Integer is not the only company who offers this service.
Later in the meeting, Jack Beacham from the Purchasing Department expressed his desire to delay the deal and actually investigate Integer’s claims that they are sole-source. Whitley insisted this could be done after approving payment for the initial study. According to Whitley, Integer would eventually be proven to be the only provider, so the county should just go ahead with the deal.
Whitley had clearly not done his own due diligence, as Integer’s sole-source claims were false.
A compelling motive for Whitley oversight was later revealed. Integer is a client of Whitley-Penn, the public accounting firm of which Whitley is a partner. This is the typical back room deal cronyism that plagues politics. Integer gives its business to Whitley-Penn, and then, Whitley turns around and gives Tarrant County’s business to Integer.
If it were not for the insistence of Commissioner Nguyen for the investigation into the sole-source claims, along with questions raised by other commissioners, the Integer deal would have sailed through. Without citizens engaged, many do.
It raises several important questions: What other conflicts of interest exist between Whitley and his accounting firm, considering his firm is one of the largest in the state? How many similar deals get pushed through city councils and school boards every week?
It is imperative that we watch each and every official we elect to office. Choosing your candidate and voting is not enough. Citizens must hold their elected official accountable for each vote they cast.
The term “cronyism” is often used to describe back room dealing made between special interests and politicians in Washington D.C. or Austin. Yet cronyism happens at all levels of government, especially at the local level. For a recent example, look no further than Tarrant County.
Imagine you are a candidate for office. The votes are in and you are just 50 votes short of victory. Your race was fiercely competitive and you suspect fraud in the results. You requested a recount already, it came out with the same results. If there is fraud, it must be in the mail-in ballots. What do you do?
Contesting an election is costly and time consuming so a candidate needs all the information possible to determine if he or she should proceed. One of the first things a candidate will want to see are the mail in ballots and applications. (For reasoning behind this: The Fort Worth Way) This sounds like a reasonable request, right? Not so fast. There are a few pieces of the Election Code blocking the way.