UPDATED January 24.
Four years after an East Texas Democrat won a close primary election, he admitted to illegal mail-ballot harvesting in the race. But he won’t face any jail time. In fact, he’s running for re-election.
Gregg County Commissioner Shannon Brown pleaded guilty this week to one count of misdemeanor voter fraud and was sentenced to a year of probation.
Brown was originally charged with 23 felonies.
In 2018, Brown edged out his Democrat primary opponent by just five votes.
Soon after, local officials announced a voter fraud complaint had been filed, alleging Brown’s campaign had organized a scheme to illegally harvest mail-in ballots by falsely claiming voters had a disability.
Brown and three others were indicted in 2020 on a total of 134 felony counts, including engaging in organized election fraud, illegal voting, fraudulent use of an application for a mail-in ballot, unlawful possession of a mail-in ballot, tampering with a governmental record, and election fraud.
According to authorities at the time of Brown’s arrest:
To increase the pool of ballots needed to swing the race in Brown’s favor, the group targeted young, able-bodied voters to cast ballots by mail by fraudulently claiming the voters were “disabled,” in most cases without the voters’ knowledge or consent. Under Texas election law, mail ballots based on disability are specifically reserved for those who are physically ill and cannot vote in-person as a result.
In an “offense report” excerpted by the Longview News-Journal, voters describe to investigators how Brown’s vote-harvesting scheme worked:
An investigator spoke with a woman who at first said she didn’t vote by mail during the March 2018 primary, but then said she did when an investigator showed her the mail ballot application she filled out.
She said nothing prevented her from going to a polling place and voting, although her mother, who she was living with at the time, is disabled.
“(The woman) said she did not check the ‘disabled’ box on the ballot application. (She) said that Shannon Brown and his wife were the people who went to her mother’s house and provided her with the mail ballot application… (The woman) was told by Brown that she could go ahead and vote by mail as well… (The woman) also stated that she did not mail in her ballot application or ballot but gave it to Brown when they visited her and her mother, and they left with the applications. (The woman) said she completed her ballot on her own, but Brown was telling her which candidates were Democrats….”
Some of the voters were in assisted living. The manager told investigators “two guys come over as they have been for years and assisted the residents in voting… the way it was done since she has been working at the facility.”
Brown and co-defendant Marlena Jackson (Brown’s wife) were sentenced to a year in jail, but their sentences were probated.
He’s staying in office and is running for re-election in the March 2022 Democrat primary.
“I am proud of my service on the Commissioners Court,” Brown said in a statement released to local media. “I intend to finish what we have started, and I look forward to continue vigorously representing my constituents.”