Last month, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, ruled that the Office of the Attorney General did not have the authority to prosecute election fraud cases. The court asserted that under the state constitution, district and county attorneys have exclusive authority to prosecute criminal cases.
This week, Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a “Motion for Rehearing” with the Court of Criminal Appeals. He is requesting that the court reconsider its decision stripping the Legislature of its power to assign the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) authority to prosecute criminal election law violations.
In a press release, the OAG noted that lawmakers granted the office that authority “approximately 70 years ago” and that the Supreme Court of Texas “has previously and consistently” said it was consistent with the Texas Constitution.
“The Court’s decision to suddenly remove our authority to prosecute election fraud can only empower dishonest campaigns to silence voters across the state,” said Attorney General Paxton in a statement. “This decision is not only wrong on legal grounds, but it has the effect of giving district and county attorneys virtually unlimited discretion to not bring election law prosecutions. Last year’s election cycle shows us that officials in our most problematic counties will simply let election fraud run rampant. I will continue to oppose this decision that diminishes our democracy and misconstrues the Texas Constitution.”
The nine justices on the Court of Criminal Appeals are Sharon Keller, Barbara Hervey, Bert Richardson, Kevin Yeary, David Newell, Mary Lou Keel, Scott Walker, Michelle Slaughter, and Jesse F. McClure III. All nine are Republicans.