Election integrity has been talked about nonstop since the 2020 presidential election, which was riddled with so many irregularities that many Americans were left believing the election was stolen.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton created an election integrity unit to make it clear that voter fraud and any mishandling of Texas elections will not be tolerated.
However, there is a problem: The Criminal Court of Appeals has said that they will no longer allow the attorney general to prosecute voter fraud.
“One of my biggest frustrations is that, supposedly, the court of criminal appeals in Texas is saying we can’t prosecute voter fraud anymore,” Paxton told Texas Scorecard in an interview during the Republican Party of Texas convention last week.
In December 2021, the Criminal Court of Appeals (CCA) issued an 8-1 opinion saying that part of a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2017, which authorizes the attorney general’s office to prosecute election fraud cases, violates the separation of powers clause in the Texas Constitution.
In the opinion, the judges claim that since the Texas Constitution states the attorney general is a part of the executive branch (not the judicial branch), Paxton’s attempt to prosecute voter fraud is an interference between the branches.
The opinion says the attorney general cannot initiate prosecutions but is allowed to prosecute if given permission by local prosecutors; Paxton said this is unlikely to happen in counties where district attorneys are uninterested in prosecuting voter fraud cases.
Though some claim voter fraud isn’t happening on a grand scale and that our elections are very secure, there are, in fact, multiple cases of voter fraud.
As reported by Texas Scorecard, a woman in Victoria County pleaded guilty this month to 26 felony counts of voter fraud after illegally harvesting mail-in ballots for a local election in 2018. She received deferred adjudication and won’t serve any time for her crimes. The organizers of the scheme have yet to be prosecuted.
Back in January, Shannon Brown and his wife Marlena Jackson each pleaded guilty to one count of voter fraud in Gregg County for participating in a 2018 ballot-harvesting scheme that resulted in Brown receiving five more votes than his Democrat primary opponent. The two were sentenced to one year of probation and a $2,000 fine.
Voting fraud can also come in many other forms, like false registration, duplicate voting, and fraudulent use of absentee ballots. The Heritage Foundation has documented that since 1982, there have been 1,354 proven cases of election fraud in the United States.
But what can the legislature do to fix election integrity in Texas? Paxton said the Legislature needs to reauthorize the criminal statute and remove three of the CCA judges.
“The Legislature needs to go back and reauthorize this criminal statute, and we need to change the Criminal Court of Appeals. We need to make sure that the three members that are up in two years aren’t there anymore after the election.”
If we don’t deal with election integrity, Paxton said, we’re bound to lose Texas and may never get it back.
Election integrity has topped the list of Republican Party of Texas legislative priorities for the past two legislative sessions, and this year’s convention delegates have made it a top priority for 2023.