Texas Republicans are so fearful of the uprising from the growing Latino population in the state that they’re doing anything they can to suppress the vote. That suppression includes targeting elderly Latino voters with unsubstantiated accusations of voter fraud.
The Intercept reports that right-wing Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted out his crusade to squash the vote last month claiming he would crack down on “illegal voting.” Such “illegal voting” is virtually non-existent, with only .00000013 percent of the 197 million votes cast for federal candidates being fraudulent.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) October 7, 2016
Beginning in late October, Texas’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, began working with investigators that are associated with a vigilante that was attempting to find examples of voter fraud. The efforts, however, quickly began to look more like fearmongering among Latinos.
The United Hispanic Council (UHC) in Tarrant County filed a complaint with the Justice Department alleging that Paxton’s investigators interrogated elderly voters in one neighborhood. Leaving them “in fear about voting and whether they may be accused of committing a crime by casting an absentee ballot.”
The Justice Department emailed the UHC that they were reviewing the claim and Paxton refused to comment on what he was doing in Tarrant County. But some did comment. At an Oct. 17 event with the Glenn Beck organization, the 9-12 Project, a GOP consultant at Direct Action named Aaron Harris told those attending that he was the one behind Paxton’s investigation.
Harris explained that an unnamed political group hired female canvassers and people of color to trick elderly Latinos into voting for whomever the canvasser told them. As a result, two Democrats won seats by what Harris called “stolen votes.”
“Everybody in these communities knows this is happening,” Harris said. “The only people that don’t are us.”
He claimed there will be years of litigation and prosecution of those involved. He also encouraged people to report voter fraud for a $5,000 bounty on any tip that resulted in a felony conviction.
UHC outlined in their complaint that the attorney general’s office is encouraging law enforcement to work with a partisan vigilante. At the same time, many Donald Trump supporters are taking the law into their own hands when it comes to policing the polls with a “coordinated campaign of vigilante voter intimidation.”
The same thing was happening in North Carolina, where election boards were working with a private individual who challenged voter registration validity. As a result, the local boards were purging voters from the rolls. Last Friday a federal appeals court ordered the voters to be restored to the rolls and to stop working with private citizens or groups claiming to be doing voter purging research.
“Using unofficial, non-trained private officials to conduct ballot security operations or challenging people’s right to vote is very dangerous and it can lead to intimidation, disruption and discrimination,” Brennan Center attorney Jonathan Brater explained. “This is something we’re particularly worried about this year.”
UHC explains that Spanish-speaking canvassers do get-out-the-vote work and help elderly voters with mail-in ballots. Assistance for seniors is allowed under the law.
Harris alleges that the elected officials are stealing their seats and hopes that the officials sue him for defamation. “I want them to — I beg them to — sue me,” Harris said. “Let’s do it. I’m going to beat their ass.”