SAN ANTONIO, TX-The most recent James O’Keefe expose released on Breitbart Texas showed a Battleground Texas field organizer engaging in a seemingly illegal data mining operation where confidential information from voter registration forms was being collected in an effort to help elect Wendy Davis as governor of Texas. The video has now triggered a process by which an investigation carried by the State of Texas may occur. In an interview with local San Antonio news, Bexar County Election Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen admitted to submitting a report to Texas Secretary of State.
Later the same day, Secretary of State spokesperson Alicia Pierce restated to Breitbart Texas that “The law speaks for itself,” and pushed further — claiming that James O’Keefe’s video “Spoke for itself as well.”
The Secretary of State’s press office clarified that it was not vested with investigative powers to affirmatively address the matter, however.
Breitbart Texas sought comment from the Texas Attorney General’s office as well-finding they must receive a referral from the Secretary of State or local election administrators to formally begin an investigation, according to an email from an official spokesperson.
Battleground Texas (BGTX) released an unrepentant statement to local media arguing their volunteers were, “patriotically working to get more Texans involved in our democracy,” and that critics of their campaign tactics were “scared of our success.” BGTX offered no direct refutation of the accusations-except to claim they were in full compliance with the law, even though the O’Keefe indicated otherwise.
The Texas Secretary of State’s office pressed the point that the data collection statute allegedly violated remains in full enforcement. Though this may seem an innocuous statement, recent history of election battles reveal a rather ironic twist in Texas.
The Project Veritas video contends that we are witnessing the tactical rebirth of ACORN through Battleground Texas. However, ACORN’s involvement extends further than ACORN founder Wade Rathke’s recent assistance to allies of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis.
Prior to the 2012 Election, an ACORN shell organization, Project Vote, joined a number of co-plaintiffs to sue the State of Texas aiming to blunt a collection of election integrity reforms that protected new voters from being abused by non-resident, untrained volunteer registrars. Among their targets in the lawsuit was the very law that Battleground Texas has been exposed in apparently violating. They also took issue with a requirement that made deputy registrars reside in the county which they hoped to organize. Another state prerequisite for individuals wishing to operate voter registration drives be trained by local officials was litigated as well.
Despite the ACORN coalition’s early success on the federal district court level – Texas handily prevailed upon appeal. The 5th Circuit Court addressed the issue of photocopying or transcribing confidential information for third party gain directly:
The Photocopying Provision states that a VDR “may distribute voter registration application forms throughout the county and receive registration applications submitted to the deputy in person”… [T]his provision limits VDRs’ conduct to collecting and delivering completed applications and implicitly precludes photocopying.
Moreover, allowing VDRs indiscriminately to photocopy registration applications places at risk the private information, e.g., social security numbers, they contain, because Steen and counties have limited means to enforce privacy protections against temporary volunteers.
Texas eventually prevailed in court, keeping all new voter protections intact and enforceable. Prior to ACORN litigation, these reforms had been approved by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act.