Texas Contemplates Voter Fraud Laws Without Evidence

In 2018, Tomas Ramirez III, a lawyer in the small Texas town of Devine, ran for justice of the peace as a Republican and was chosen to serve Medina County.

Two years later, he was charged by the Texas attorney general’s office with one count of organized election theft, 17 counts of illegally having a ballot, and 17 counts of illegally helping people vote by mail. The indictment said that Ramirez, who is 57 years old, stole votes from the 2018 GOP primary.

Ramirez said he had never had anyone else’s vote, so he didn’t understand why the state was charging him. He thought that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton needed something to back up his public claims of widespread voter fraud, and he was ready to file charges against Ramirez and three women even though the evidence was very weak.

The charges were eventually dropped. The state filed them twice more, but both times they were dropped. Ramirez said that the 19-month ordeal was hard on his family and endangered his law career.

“It was pretty hard to have to go through that,” he said. “I can only shake my head and wonder what the heck is going on and why is this happening to me.”

The Texas legislature is currently looking at a number of plans that would make it harder for people to vote, such as putting in place election marshals who would police the law and deal with violations. Another idea would give the attorney general even more power to go after people who break election laws without help from local officials. The plans come from a state that is one of more than a dozen that will pass restrictive voting laws after the 2020 election. Voting rights advocates say that access to the ballot is already limited in many difficult ways.

Texas Contemplates Voter Fraud Laws Without Evidence

The voting rights program manager for Common Cause Texas, Katya Ehresman, said, “These bills seem to want to prosecute widespread voter fraud, but there’s no evidence right now that they’re needed, other than speculation or partisan politics.”

She said that politicians like Paxton in Texas often use the biannual legislative session to “create political theater” that helps them get re-elected.

Like the rest of the US, voter theft is very rare in Texas. ProPublica says that between January 2020 and September 2022, Paxton’s unit that looked into election crimes started at least 390 cases but only got five people convicted.

Daniel Griffith, senior policy director for the non-partisan group Secure Democracy USA, said, “They were spending millions of dollars to close about three or four cases a year.”

Even so, Paxton has kept talking about the work of his office, saying that a big number of defendants are being charged with even more counts of voter fraud. Check out another news about Rural School Leaders Oppose The Business Incentive Bil.

“I don’t know anything about these other cases,” said Ramirez. “All I know is that there was no election fraud in Texas if their arguments are as good as mine.”

Still, seven bills have passed in the state senate that would make it harder for people accused of voting crimes to get out of jail, and dozens more have been proposed, according to the Voting Rights Lab, which keeps track of state laws.

Certain laws

In 2021, Texas lawmakers passed a big bill about voting that made changes to the ballot, like making it harder to vote by mail and making it illegal to give out mail-in ballot forms. But the bill, which was backed by Republicans in both houses, also made voting fraud a misdemeanor instead of a felony. On Thursday, the House talked about a bill to make it a state jail felony again. This is the same type of crime as kidnapping or sexual coercion.

Ehresman said, “It’s mostly a problem looking for a solution, especially since both chambers agreed less than 18 months ago that a felony is not the right level of punishment for these election problems.” “We’re very worried that it’s an example of bad-faith partisan attempts to sabotage our elections and make people feel more scared about our elections,” said one official.

In another bill, the attorney general would be able to choose a county or district attorney to be a special investigator in an election case. The attorney general would also be in charge of election law. The first time Ramirez’s charges were dropped was because the Texas Court of criminal appeals said Paxton didn’t have the power to bring charges against people on his own. Ramirez said he thought the law would be overturned in court for the same reason Paxton’s previous efforts were overturned.

Below we can see a tweet related to the no evidence of widespread voter fraud. You can see below:

“You can’t take powers that the Texas constitution gives only to the judicial branch and give them to the executive branch,” Ramirez said. “That goes against the idea of separate powers.”

This bill hasn’t had a vote on the floor yet, but it has been heard. In the same way, a different bill would force Texas prosecutors to look into cases linked to elections. The plan to make election marshals a reality has moved out of a Senate committee, which worries people who work to protect voting rights. They say that Florida’s similar efforts to stop voter fraud have cost taxpayers a lot of money and have mostly failed.

“You’ve seen it play out in the way the Florida office has worked so far,” Griffiths said. “There have been some pretty high-profile arrests, but when you look into what’s going on with the cases, they’re being dropped or pled out so that the people don’t get much of a punishment.”

Ehresman also said it was a bad bill because it would let people from the Texas Department of Public Safety, who don’t know much about election law, work as election marshals. You can also check another Landmark Bill Passes Texas Senate: Fentanyl Distributors To Face Murder Charges.

She said, “It’s bad and contradictory if the bill’s author and supporters care about public safety.”

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