The nonprofit Tarrant County-based voting rights advocacy group United Hispanic Council announced Friday that it has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, charging suppression of minority voting rights as a result of an investigation into possible mail-in ballot fraud.
An examination of thousands of questionable mail-in election ballots by the watchdog group Direct Action Texas has led to led to a state investigation into what is being called the largest voter fraud investigation in Texas History.
Aaron Harris, executive director of Direct Action Harris, said he turned over the results of his lengthy probe into mail-ballot irregularities to the Texas Secretary of State, who then turned over the findings to in the enforcement division of the Office of the Attorney General.
Neither agency has commented on the investigation but both Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted messages about the investigation on social media.
“Largest voter fraud investigation in Texas history underway in Tarrant County. We will crush illegal voting,” Gov. Greg Abbott stated on social media.
The United Hispanic Council announced in a news release that it has received complaints from Hispanic seniors due to door-to-door visits by “Tea Party activists and possibly Texas Attorney General representatives who aimed to be investigating ‘voter fraud’,” the organization said in a news release.
“They have left a trail of confused and upset seniors who are now afraid of voting or participating via the absentee ballot process,” the organization stated.
Harris has been speaking to community groups about his discovery of mismatched signatures on mail-in ballot applications and the carrier envelopes used to return the ballots.
He began his probe after the defeat of two candidates he supported in the 2015 race for two open seats on the Tarrant Regional Water District board. The large number of mail-in ballots and signatures in the signatures suggest a type of election fraud known as vote harvesting, he said.
Mail-in ballots are commonly used in all elections to collect the votes of residents living overseas, members of the military and aged and infirmed voters who cannot appear at the polls in person.
“We have heard rumors for years of manipulation of the elections system in Tarrant County and thought it was time for someone to look into the facts, according to a statement from Direct Action. The organization “spent countless hours analyzing open records requests, noticing patterns.”
The organization said it uncovered about 20,000 questionable ballots obtained over four years, primarily in within minority communities.
“This vote harvesting operation preys on the elderly and the economically disadvantaged, who are among our most vulnerable neighbors,” the statement said.
Both sides are alleging intimidation of low-income, minority voters for different reasons.
The United Hispanic Council has planned a rally at noon Saturday to Marine Park, across the street from the All Saints Catholic Church Parish Hall, 200 NW 20th St. in Fort Worth.
Several local elected officials, including Texas State Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, and Fort Worth City Councilman Sal Espino, will be among the guest speakers who will discuss “vigilante-style visits by political activists” and the timing of the Attorney General’s investigation, the organization announced.
The elected officials will also address “the rise in reported voter intimidation by supporters of Donald Trump” at early-voting sites in Tarrant County, the organization said.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said the county election’s office, which administers most local elections, has a system of checks and balances to examine mail-in ballots to prevent this type of fraud.
But Whitley did acknowledge that “mail-in ballots present the best opportunity to commit election fraud” because it does not require voter identification.
Harris has said repeatedly that the mail-in ballot issues he discover are not connected to the Nov. 8 election.
He also said the alleged fraud is tied to “Republican-leaning” operatives who want to manipulate election outcomes for reasons of “greed and graft.”