Texas not free from 'voter fraud' fracas

AUSTIN - Behind in the presidential polls, Republican nominee Donald Trump refuses to back down from his disproved claims of widespread voter fraud. Now a small group of activists is saying they don't trust state and county election officials in Texas.

As Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton pulls away in the national contest, Trump's unprecedented response has been to try and delegitimize the democratic process itself. Trump told a crowd of supporters Tuesday in Grand Junction, Colorado, "They even want to try to rig the election at the polling booths, where so many cities are corrupt, and voter fraud is all too common."

The facts show the opposite is true, and voter fraud is exceedingly rare. Now as polls show a historically close race in deep-red Texas, a handful of activists gathered in Austin to make a similar claim.

"We want the laws followed in the state," said Laura Pressley, an Austin city council candidate who accused Travis County of mishandling elections after her campaign lost in 2014. Pressley's lawsuit was thrown out for lack of evidence and remains on appeal. She now accuses Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos of illegally allowing counties to reduce paper election records, and accuses county election workers of corruption.

Activists held a news conference Wednesday at the Texas Capitol to demand immediate action, including printing results tapes for Early Voting and on Election Day at polling locations when polls close and ceasing programs to reduce paper backup records. If their demands aren't met by election day, Pressley told KVUE the election results will not be legitimate in her view.

"I don't believe the elections in Texas, if we don't have the backup records... We're supposed to have the checks and balances," said Pressley, who denied the timing of the news conference had anything to do with poll numbers indicating a precariously close margin for Trump in Texas.

In August, state Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas) called on the secretary to "reconsider and rewrite proposed rules to provide for real-time paper records and backups."

"The proposed election rules take Texas backward on election integrity by raising voters' doubts and suspicions at a time when Texas should be increasing voters' confidence," Huffines said in an Aug. 31 statement. "At a minimum, real-time paper records will help inform us of any irregularities - whether benign or malicious - so appropriate remedies can be pursued."

"Absolutely we hold the safety and the security and the accuracy of these elections at the highest level and we are absolutely following the letter of the law," said Alicia Pierce, communications director for the Texas Secretary of State. Pierce argues voting machines are secure and records are backed up in multiple ways. Pierce contends state law prohibits results from being collected during Early Voting, and indeed such information could provide temptation for abuse.

"If you feel like you have concerns, please report them to our office," said Pierce. "The worse thing that could happen is that you don't go to the polls because you have any fear or apprehension that the system might not work for you."

"The Travis County Clerk remains committed to conducting an election that complies with all applicable laws, and the interpretations of those laws provided by the Secretary of State, in his role as the Chief Elections Officer of the State of Texas," Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said in a statement Wednesday.

"To that end, we believe that all of our procedures, which are developed to assure the integrity of the election, do just that," said DeBeauvoir. "We look forward to the record voter turnout that is projected for the November General Election, and remind the voters to vote early!"

Others argue Texas' biggest problem is eligible voters who don't participate in the process.

"Texas voted 34 percent two years ago, which was dead last," said state Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin), who filed an electronic voter registration bill last session. A member of the Texas House Elections Committee, Israel says fraud should be investigated, but those suggesting it's rampant are doing the public a disservice.

"For them to incite distrust and discord and anger, it angers me, because our country is better than that," said Israel, singling out the Republican nominee. "This is a great American democracy founded on one person, one vote, and for him to diminish that is unpatriotic and it's an insult."

To combat confusion over voter identification requirement in Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and Mi Familia Vota have launched an Election Protection Hotline. Voters can call 1-888-507-2970 during Early Voting, Oct. 24 through Nov. 4, and on Election Day, Nov. 8, to report voter suppression and ask about identification requirements.

(© 2016 KVUE)


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