Voter Fraud Investigation. The Secretary of State’s Director of Elections has asked the Attorney General for “assistance in reviewing allegations of criminal activity in Hill County elections.” A complaint filed by Philip Harris of Direct Action Texas alleges that as many as 1,743 votes were cast in the county in the primary that cannot be associated with actual voters and several voters cast ballots as many as four times.
County election officials said the errors are likely the result of double-counting the absentee and early votes, which are still tallied by hand. They believe that any downward adjustments made to the vote totals would not affect any outcomes.
Even if illegal activity was found, the results of the 2016 primary would not be changed. Hill Co. is part of HD8, where a primary race between Rep. Byron Cook and Thomas McNutt was decided in Cook’s favor by 225 votes. Cook won Hill Co. by 365 votes.
Some local elections were considerably closer. Just 41 votes separated the two candidates for tax assessor-collector, and 55 votes separated two county commissioner candidates.
Direct Action Texas is a D/FW-based advocacy group that focuses on government transparency, government ethics, public debt and civil liberties at the local level. Many of these issues are shared by Empower Texans/Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, and its logo (and that of the Texas Public Policy Foundation) is on Direct Action Texas’s website.
Austin Campaign Restrictions Tossed. Austin council member Don Zimmerman was partially successful in his lawsuit against the city challenging several campaign finance limitations. U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel struck down the city’s so-called “blackout period” and requirement that unused campaign funds must be liquidated within 90 days of an election. This ruling is consistent with recent cases striking down similar requirements, including in Houston. Yeakel left the city’s contributions limits intact.
Zimmerman said he wanted to know whether the city planned to appeal the ruling before he decides whether to appeal himself to have the contribution limits overturned.
Straight-ticket Voting Reinstated. A federal judge issued four preliminary injunctions against Michigan election officials to prevent implementation of a recently passed law ending straight-ticket voting there. State election officials plan to appeal.
Ballots must be ready by September 24 to send to overseas voters, so the deadline for final ballot language is August 16. Like Texas, Michigan has long ballots, especially in its more populous counties.
U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain said the law would reduce African-Americans’ ability to participate in the political process by disproportionately burdening their voting process. Drain cited research showing that high rates of straight-ticket voting correlated with communities where African-Americans comprised a majority of residents.
Nine states permit voters to cast a ballot for all candidates of a chosen party with a single mark on a ballot: Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. Michigan was the ninth state to abolish the single-mark option since 2006.