Commissioner Shannon Brown and citizens Marlena Jackson, Charlie Burns, and DeWayne Ward, the indictment documents say, conspired to harvest votes during the 2018 Democratic primary by urging voters who did not qualify for mail-in-ballots to fraudulently claim disability.
Furthermore, the defendants selected Brown on voters’ ballots without their permission and mailed in their ballots illegally.
In all, 134 felony charges were filed against the quartet and the penalties associated therein range from six months in jail to 99 years in prison.
Texas law currently stipulates that only those who have a verifiable sickness or disability, are 65-years of age or older, or are away from their county on Election Day may cast a ballot by mail.
Democrats wish to expand this option to the entire electorate due to coronavirus concerns, but have been unsuccessful thus far. Republicans, Attorney General Ken Paxton chief among them, have objected over concerns of its susceptibility to fraud.
Paxton said of the indictments, “It is an unfortunate reality that elections can be stolen outright by mail ballot fraud. Election fraud, particularly an organized mail ballot fraud scheme orchestrated by political operatives, is an affront to democracy and results in voter disenfranchisement and corruption at the highest level.”
“Mail ballots are vulnerable to diversion, coercion, and influence by organized vote harvesting schemes. This case demonstrates my commitment to ensuring Texas has the most secure elections in the country, and I thank the Gregg County Sheriff and District Attorney for their continued partnership. Those who try to manipulate the outcome of elections in Texas must be held accountable,” he concluded.
The issue’s become a hot topic as the election nears. As of July, 457 instances of fraud have been prosecuted by Paxton’s office since 2004.
Allegations of voter fraud can be filed with the secretary of state, and then after a very minor degree of evaluation, they are forwarded to the attorney general’s office for further investigation.
Mail-in-ballot fraud exists, but to date has not proven rampant enough to swing a presidential election. However, down-ballot races are much more susceptible as raw vote margins thin.
Brown won his Democratic primary race by five votes in 2018. At least 30 different voters were victims of the scheme.
He faces 23 felony counts while Jackson faces 97, Burns faces eight, and Ward six.
The Gregg County Sheriff’s Department assisted in the investigation.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.