The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals doesn’t typically penetrate the consciousness of Texas voters, but the March primary election may upset that track record.

In 2021, all but one judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the Attorney General of Texas could not prosecute election fraud. The ruling upended more than seven decades of precedent and has been criticized as activism disguised as originalism.

The Texas Legislature granted the Attorney General the power to prosecute election fraud cases, cases local District Attorneys have historically not pursued.

The court’s ruling came about a year after Attorney General Ken Paxton challenged the 2020 election on the basis that other states had mismanaged their own elections, disenfranchising Texas voters.

Controversially, the ruling was issued just two days after the filing deadline for running against three members on the ballot, timing that was at the time called overtly political.

In a post to X this week, Paxton said the ruling was based on “ludicrous” analysis and that it “makes it virtually impossible to prosecute voter fraud in large, liberal, Soros-funded, Democrat counties.”

Paxton’s post came after Judge Michelle Slaughter, one of the justices on the Court of Criminal Appeals up for reelection in March, publicly decried criticism of her ruling. Her posts, which were later deleted, came days before polling from the University of Houston showed most Republican primary voters disapproved of her ruling.

According to the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs polling, 60 percent of GOP primary voters polled are less likely to vote for a judge who ruled in 2021 that the Texas Attorney General cannot unilaterally prosecute voter fraud.

All three of the judges seeking reelection, Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, Judge Barbara Hervey, and the aforementioned Slaughter, voted to strip the AG of prosecutorial power in election fraud cases.

Slaughter notably received $5,000 from Rusty Hardin in December, months after the renowned litigator failed to secure an impeachment verdict against Ken Paxton. A month after the failed impeachment, the juggernaut PAC Texans for Lawsuit Reform dumped $15,000 into Slaughter’s coffers.

According to the Texas Ethics Commission, in the past year, Judge Keller has received a single donation of $15,000 from TLR. Over that same period, Judge Hervey received three donations, two that totaled $1,300 and one for $15,000 from TLR.

Unlike other offices in Texas, donors are limited in what they can give to a judicial campaign. Individuals are maxed out at $5,000, and GPACs, like TLRs, are allowed to give up to $25,000.

Judges on the Court are elected to six-year terms. 

Early voting in the March primary election starts on February 20, 2024; election day is March 5.

Daniel Greer

Daniel Greer is the Director of Innovation for Texas Scorecard.