Kaufman County voters are going back to the polls for a do-over election, ordered after a judge found voter fraud tainted the results of the March 6 Republican primary.
Early voting started Saturday in the July 21 special election for Kaufman County Court at Law No. 1. Challenger Tracy Gray is again facing incumbent Dennis Jones in a rematch to choose the Republican nominee. The winner will run unopposed in November.
Gray contested the results of the March primary after a recount showed she lost to Jones by one vote. Gray’s lawsuit alleged multiple mail-in ballots were illegally filled out and submitted by a vote harvester, and provisional ballots that should have been counted were rejected.
After reviewing the evidence and hearing witness testimony, District Judge Marty Lowy agreed. Lowy ruled the true outcome of the race couldn’t be determined and ordered a new election. Jones was not accused of any wrongdoing.
Gray presented evidence that Brenda Prince, a long-time Democrat Party activist and known vote harvester in the city of Terrell, illegally assisted or coerced voters, and requested and submitted mail-in ballots without voters’ knowledge or direction.
Multiple voters told the judge in a hearing they didn’t know who they voted for, or even if they had voted in the March Republican primary. In fact, the voters questioned couldn’t identify any of the people or races on the ballot they’d supposedly filled out just a few weeks before, and had never heard of the two candidates in the contested race.
Yet all of the voters whose ballots were challenged were certain that Prince “assisted” them with their mail-in ballots. Prince, who also testified at the hearing, said she’d done nothing wrong.
“The court is unable to credit most of Ms. Prince’s testimony,” Lowy said at the conclusion of the hearing. “She has contradicted the testimony of virtually every voter who has appeared here, and I am unwilling to discredit all of their testimony and credit hers.”
“I don’t think the law can require the contestant to prove what is impossible to prove,” Lowy added, “when the witnesses all said the same thing: ‘I don’t know how I voted.’”
Watchdog organization Direct Action Texas filed election fraud complaints with the Texas Secretary of State in April, detailing 47 counts of fraudulent mail-in ballot assistance by Prince and others in Kaufman County. DAT examined all Kaufman’s mail-in ballots for both the Democrat and Republican primaries and found “a clear pattern of ballot harvesting in both parties’ primaries.”
“We discovered what appear to be numerous applications and ballots assisted illegally and some obvious forgeries,” said DAT’s Christine Welborn.
Kaufman officials and candidates have been on the alert for voter fraud in other elections since the March contest, flagging ballots suspected of being tied to Prince or illegally harvested.
About 600 potentially fraudulent ballots cast in Kaufman County’s March 22 Republican primary runoffs were sequestered and reviewed by the Texas Attorney General’s Office and Texas Rangers before being counted. Authorities seized another 18 mail-in ballots from the June 16 Terrell ISD runoff; five ballots tied to applications identified as fraudulent in the County Court at Law contest were opened and turned over to the AG’s custody.
Gray, a partner in the local law firm Guest and Gray, worked on the legal fight against the city of Mesquite’s forced annexation of Kaufman County property last year – a fight she and the property owners eventually won.
Jones was appointed by Kaufman County Commissioners in May 2013 to fill the vacancy created when Judge Erleigh Wiley was appointed to replace murdered Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland. Jones was re-elected to the court in November 2014.
The special Republican primary election is open to all eligible voters except those who cast ballots in the March 6 Democratic primary. Early voting started July 7 and continues through July 14, and July 16-18. Election Day is Saturday, July 21.