Texas Stalls on Stopping Voter Fraud
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.
Without a closer inspection, election officials are unable to identify the use of electronic signature, since faxed forms are already copies of the original document.
The judge’s decision to reject Burnam’s request was based on a loophole in Election Law, and Burnam was then left to blindly decide whether or not to proceed with a costly legal challenge of the election results. Without the ability to review any evidence, Burnam dropped his lawsuit.
Burnam’s challenger, sitting State Rep. Ramon Romero, denied any knowledge of the use of electronic signatures. His legal team from Kelly Hart & Hallman, working pro bono, argued that releasing the documents would be an invasion of voter privacy. However, this claim is flawed. The name and address of each voter is readily available in a downloadable format on the Tarrant County Elections website after each day of voting.
The following year, illegal voter-harvesting continued unchecked in Tarrant County until the fall when investigators from the Attorney General’s Office launched a criminal investigation resulting from a complaint filed by Direct Action Texas. The investigation is currently ongoing.
Criminal investigations by the AG’s Office aren’t the only way to curb voter fraud. The Texas Legislature must act to close loopholes and raise penalties for stealing votes. We are entering our second legislative session since the 2014 race between Burnam and Romero. Very little of the election code has been reformed
Even worse, Romero has taken action to aid illegal vote-harvesters, by twice authoring legislation to allow electronic signatures to be used on ballot-by-mail applications. He now champions something he claimed to know “nothing about” in his own race. Fortunately, his bill died in 2015. But what about the identical measure he’s re-filed?
Annual ballot by mail applications allow voters to make one request per year, for every election the same year. Current law allows the release of those documents to be kept from public view until well after the legal deadline to contest the results of a race.
Who will fight to reform Texas’ election laws, and protect the integrity of our voting process?