Legislative Reform

Shocking Video – School District Electioneers at Early Voting Parties

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“A joint investigation by Direct Action Texas and Empower Texans reveals Lancaster ISD employees advocated for a tax rate proposition at “back to school” parties inside polls.”

Article by Erin Anderson of Empower Texans

“A North Texas school district used controversial, and possibly illegal, tactics to help ensure passage of a property tax rate proposition that will result in more tax revenue for the district and higher tax bills for taxpayers.

A joint investigation by Direct Action Texas and Empower Texans took a look at “back-to-school” parties for parents held inside campus polling locations in Lancaster Independent School District. The parties were on the same day, at the same time, and at the same schools as the early voting polls.

Lancaster ISD used what’s called “rolling polling” during early voting for its August 25 tax ratification election, moving polling locations to different district campuses each day.

Early voting began on August 8, the day after district teachers and staff returned to campus. Back-to-school parties coordinated with early “mobile voting” sites were held August 13-18.

Tony Ortiz of Empower Texans and Robert Montoya of Direct Action Texas visited three campuses during their rolling polling parties — Rosa Parks Millbrook Elementary, George Washington Carver, and Lancaster Middle School — and recorded what they saw on video.

School employees in the video admit the parties were held to get parents to vote. The parties gave free food to parents. The parties were held at schools, on taxpayer-funded government property. At each polling location visited, multiple school employees said on video to vote for the tax rate proposition.

State law makes it illegal for school districts to use taxpayer resources for electioneering. And government employees at work are prohibited from telling voters how to vote in an election.

The video shows what look like violations of both statutes:

 

And no person in Texas can electioneer to voters inside a polling location. They must be 100 feet away from the entrance to the building where the poll is located.

School employees appear to have violated those limits as well. They electioneered inside the polls and on the taxpayer’s dime.

The district’s questionable tactics paid off. Lancaster ISD voters approved the tax swap 62-38 percent, with a dismal 2.5 percent voter turnout. In-person early voters, including those who cast ballots at the early voting parties, voted for the tax swap proposition by a 269-65 margin. Election Day voters, who cast ballots at a local library, were more closely divided, 124-100.”

Bipartisan Support for HB 2139

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Due to the magnitude of the fraud Direct Action Texas has uncovered over the last 2 years, we have been calling for sensible reforms to come out of Austin. One of these is a bill authored by Representative Mike Schofield (R-Katy). House Bill 2139 would allow prosecutors to treat organized election fraud activity the same way it would treat other forms of organized crime, raising each penalty level one degree. Testimonies given in the House Committee on Elections revealed overwhelming bipartisan support.

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Missouri Takes Action Against Voter Fraud

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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.

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Texas Stalls on Stopping Voter Fraud

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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.

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Election Code Loopholes Hurt Candidates: And Help Harvesters

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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.

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