Fighting for election integrity and transparency

Lack of Transparency Undermining Trust in Elections

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What is Travis County hiding?

Asked for election records in December, the county initially tried to ignore the request. Only after being asked to comply 30 days later did the county send an extravagant bill of $6,000 for record production.

This obscene cost (for a subset of election records) is being contested, and the county will be forced to relinquish records at far less to no cost one way or another.

Still, being forced to wrangle election records from bureaucrats undermines trust in elections.

Lawmakers should again work to streamline access and eliminate the cost of obtaining election records. During the 2019 session, SB 902 by Senator Hughes was passed and signed into law requiring all election records to be available to the public no later than 15 days after the election and for a cost of no more than $50.

This level of transparency is possible; we’ve experienced it on an ongoing basis in the case of Tarrant County. Travis County is light years behind when it comes to the speed and ease of access to records.

That Travis County and many other Democrat lead counties (Harris and Dallas), for that matter, haven’t invested in technology to empower transparency is telling.

In addition to running afoul of Texas law on the cost to record production, Travis county has run well past its deadline for compliance.

This request was received by Travis County on December 17, 2020, and ignored until January 25, 2021.

Ignored isn’t the correct term to use. The email was actually opened more than 100 times between the date it was sent, and a response was finally made.

Travis County, in this instance and others, is flaunting Texas open government laws. A complaint has been filed with the Attorney General’s office.

What Election Measures to Oppose and Support in 2021

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Texas and America are truly at a crossroads when it comes to the administration of elections. The political left is trying to consolidate power and squash what looks like a revitalization of the populist movement.

During the 2021 legislative session, there are broad categories of bills dealing with election integrity that Direct Action Texas will support or oppose.

Oppose

Voter ID alterations: Several bills seek to “update” language in the election code related to voter identification are filed. There is no apparent, well-argued reason for updating this practice. Some of the suggested changes will lower security and verification of ID and will continue to lower trust in elections.

Universal mail-in balloting: At all levels of government, Democrats will be pushing for more mail-in balloting. When the pandemic hit, abuse and unlawful expansion of the practice took place in many jurisdictions across Texas.

Expanded curb-side voting: To be clear, the expansion of curbside (drive-thru voting), while it was sold as a protection against the spread of COVID19, is not a reasonable or practical solution. Election administrators and poll workers will testify that curbside voting is a logistical headache that has been and should remain available in a limited fashion.

Electronification of elections: Several bills are filed every session to push elections out of the physical realm and into the digital. While claims abound, no evidence of an election being stolen via electronic vote switching has been verified. Nonetheless, it’s abundantly clear that the adoption and increased use of electronics in the election process do not build trust.

Additionally, moving election functions to email or online, including communications, voting, and registering, are objectionable due to the insecure, unverifiable, and hackable nature. 

Also, “wet” signatures, not electronic or photocopied, are the most secure form of identification, and any movement away from them is ill advised.

Support

Procedure clarifications: Too much of election law is vague. Without clear instructions, elections are administered in a slapdash fashion, which has an anticipated effect on confidence in elections, it’s lowered.

Mail-in ballot reform: This election cycle revealed the scourge that mail-in balloting is on our elections. Democrats have historically admitted this reality but in 2020 and on a going-forward basis appear ready to exploit the weaknesses of this method of voting to manufacture elections where they might otherwise lose.

Penalties for bad behavior: Legislation that enacts and raises penalties for an illicit activity or, in some cases, the dereliction of duty will be supported. Following the passage of SB 5 in 2017, which defined organized election fraud, increased many misdemeanors to felonies, and created other criminal penalties, loopholes for bad actors remain. 

Risk limiting audits: Trust in elections would be significantly improved with the Secretary of State and law enforcement entities’ ability to conduct risk-limiting audits.

Civil penalties and timelines: Currently, remedies and paths to prosecution for election fraud allegations are onerous, time-constrained, and consuming.

Civil penalties for election fraud would afford aggrieved parties more comfortable access to the courts and provide remedies that are commensurate with the damage caused by both the act of committing fraud and the cost of pursuing justice after it’s saved.

Current timelines for certifying elections and proving up allegations of fraud are too tight and need to be extended to accommodate quick but thorough research of election activity.

Left ramping up to deface future elections

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The completely predictable has happened.

A by-the-skin-of-their-teeth Democrat majority in D.C. is going to try and ram through an abomination of an election bill.

In part, the bill H.R. 1 will be a retread of Nancy Pelosi’s similarly number measure from 2019, which seeks to make permanent some of the maladministration of the 2020 election.

An attempt to enshrine into law rules that destabilized the republic is abhorrent behavior. The called for changes are correctly viewed as removing safeguards against fraud.

Pelosi would like vote-by-mail universal, end voter ID, invalidate state election laws, and end signature verification for starters.

The left isn’t interested in the future as it wasn’t during 2020 in the running free and fair from fraud elections. Its only aims are power, and rigging the game is the only way that happens.

This is no way to build back trust in American elections. Pelosi’s gambit is a sure-fire way to undermine trust further and lead to more contention.

To borrow a phrase from the woke, the bill is violence.

This and other policy proposals’ net effect will be worse than Obamacare for the party in power. That this isn’t already accounted for is unlikely and is a good indicator of the party’s prospects moving forward.

Still, there will need to be reform efforts at the state level to set up a bulwark against these and other federal government abuses.

Risk-limiting Audits Needed

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Texas needs risk-limiting audits to rebuild trust in elections.

Right now, the only way an audit of an election occurs in Texas is if there’s a dispute about the result.

A dispute isn’t always triggered and certainly wouldn’t have been for the presidential election in Texas.

Still, there were questions in various counties about election result veracity, doubts that an audit could have allayed.

While narratives by national figures like Michelle Malkin and the Gateway Pundit suggesting electronic in Tarrant County fraud fell flat when challenged, distrust exists that can’t be overcome without an audit.

Not all audits are created equal. Texas needs robust and transparent audits.

The only thing worse than no audit might be an audit that can credibly be criticized like the half-hearted variants on display in states like Georgia and Pennsylvania this cycle.

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Quick take: Clean up voter rolls before surging ranks

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Ahead of the legislative session, several election policy ideas are making the rounds. To date, there are more bad than good, but this, as in past sessions, will change.

This morning, Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin) suggested mandating the Secretary of State send voter registration materials to high schoolers.

Setting aside the “wisdom” of such a maneuver, it’s putting the cart before the proverbial horse.

Texas voter rolls, like those in many states, have been neglected for years. In large part, this is due to aggressive resistance, including vexatious litigation by Democrats and their allies.

Previously covered and part of this record of keeping voter rolls dirty are efforts to stop the removal of dead voters and non-citizens from the rolls.

Currently, list maintenance isn’t mandated and there’s no recourse for local officials derelict in their duty of securing the vote in Texas by keeping voter rolls clean. This must change.

A clearly defined process with an accountability mechanism is needed.

Don’t read what’s not written, this isn’t a generalization about the current state of play in every county in Texas.

There are some counties working to keep voter rolls in shape. Change of address, death, and felon removals are happening just not consistently across the state.

Before aggressively adding to the size of voter rolls, an action in search of a problem as more than 80% of Texans are registered to vote, Texas must clean up the rolls as they are currently constituted.

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