Texans are concerned that mail ballot fraud is being used to steal elections – especially close local elections that typically have low voter turnout.

Marvin Sutton is one of those concerned Texans. In June, Sutton lost a city council race by just two votes. But he says more than two people who weren’t eligible to vote in the election cast ballots, calling the results into question.

In a complaint contesting the results of the June 10 runoff election for Arlington City Council District 3, Sutton claims that people “who were not eligible to vote a mail ballot were mailed a ballot and these people’s ballots were included in the count.”

Sutton further claims that:

there are additional voters that were denied the right to vote,

there were a number of voters who were not eligible to vote in this election, but whose votes were included in the count, and 

the number of illegal votes that were cast in this election is in a number sufficient to change the outcome of the election.

Sutton’s complaint concludes that, “If the evidence shows that the true outcome of the election cannot be determined because of the allegations recited above, then the Court must call a new election as provided by the Texas Election Code to determine the winner of the election.”

Sutton has yet to make any evidence public, but his complaint highlights just how easily local election outcomes can be changed by just a few illegal votes, and how easily just a handful of fraudulent mail ballots could be used to steal elections.

Fewer than five percent of Arlington’s registered voters – about 1,800 – participated in the runoff election. The biggest disparity in votes cast for Sutton, a Democrat, versus his Republican-backed opponent Roxanne Thalman was in mail-in ballots. Thalman received 69 percent of the mail ballot votes cast – 136 versus 61 for Sutton.

A local watchdog group attributes that difference to organized, and possibly overzealous, vote harvesters.

Aaron Harris, executive director of Direct Action Texas (DAT), told Texas Scorecard he is aware of the Arlington lawsuit and is following the situation, though his group isn’t a party to the action. Current law doesn’t allow public inspection of mail ballot records until the end of the year — though that will change when a newly enacted revision to the law goes into effect later this year.

“Texas has a pattern of mail in ballot fraud and DAT is involved in three ongoing criminal investigations into mail-in ballot fraud. The Arlington race in question shares a lot of the same patterns and people that we have documented in other races. Most of these illegal activities occur in municipal races due to amount of money being spent by cities and school districts.” 

Gov. Greg Abbott shares Texans’ concerns about election integrity and voter fraud. That’s why he made “enhancing the detection, prosecution, and elimination of mail-in ballot fraud” a priority in this special legislative session.

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Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.