The Dallas County District Attorney’s office continues to investigate possible tampering of more than 1,200 mail-in ballot applications filed in the recent 2018 primary election.
A questionable 459 of these applications turned up from West Dallas, Grand Prairie, and parts of Oak Cliff during a county board review of provisional and suspicious ballots, according to The Dallas Morning News. The documents came from the same sections of Dallas where, last year, officials sequestered hundreds of ballots during city council elections. It also led to one arrest and a state law to curb such illegal activity.
Andy Chatham, assistant district attorney for Dallas County, told the Dallas newspaper: “Some of the applications were suspicious because they were filled out in September and October of 2017, but not submitted for a mail-in ballot until January and February of 2018.” However, he did not comment further as the matter remains under investigation.
The Morning News noted that unlike in the 2017 municipal election, not one voter notified the elections department or district attorney’s office about any mail-in ballot fraud. Instead, the Dallas County Elections Department pulled suspicious applications.
In February, Breitbart Texas reported Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole turned over mail-in ballots for the March 6 primary election to the county district attorney’s office when certain warning signs surfaced in these applications, such as addresses coming up as unknown and date discrepancies between applications and submitted ballots.
This week, Pippins-Poole told the Dallas newspaper that hundreds of ballots were mailed at one time to the department in a single FedEx box. Four of the suspicious applications came from dead voters, one who was dead for several years. Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said her office would work hard to make sure the mail-in ballot process was not abused.
“We want to let people know that we are serious,” said Johnson. “It’s not about a political party. People have the right to have their votes counted.”
The sequestering of these 1,200 applications will have little impact on most election results in Dallas County, noted the Morning News. Still, former state District Judge Elizabeth Frizell, who lost to former state District Judge John Creuzot in the Democrat race for Dallas District Attorney, plans to seek a recount. She lost by 612 votes, of which 200 provisional ballots landed in the questionable pile.
Absentee ballots are largely used by voters age 65 and older, the disabled, and U.S. citizens out of the country during an election cycle.
Last year, Breitbart Texas reported the Dallas County Elections Department sequestered around 700 suspicious absentee ballots, which temporarily froze the results of a May election riddled with allegations of forged ballot signatures in two hotly contested Democrat Dallas City Council races. Johnson later launched an investigation and asked the Office of the Texas Attorney General for support, which was granted. This resulted in the arrest of Miguel Hernandez, accused of forging signatures on the mail-in ballots of unsuspecting elderly voters, under the fictitious name of “Jose Rodriguez.” A grand jury later indicted Hernandez.
Breitbart Texas reported state lawmakers attacked the problem with a legislative fix, Senate Bill 5. It graduated penalties for voter mail fraud for repeat offenders from misdemeanor to felony status, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. The law barred the use of electronic signatures and mandated signature verification on absentee ballots. Any vote by mail ballots suspected of fraud must be reported immediately to the Texas Attorney General’s office.
At the time, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a national election integrity law firm, called SB 5’s stronger penalties a positive step but argued that Texas needed to shore up voter ID requirements built into the mail balloting system. PILF cited the Kansas model, which required citizens to provide a driver’s license number or other forms of identification when requesting to vote by mail.
In January, the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted to limit the number of pre-printed mail-in ballots individuals may obtain from the elections department in an attempt alleviate fraud. However, some experts told Breitbart Texas this did little to curb voter fraud since it did not stop individuals from privately printing absentee ballot applications from the county’s website. PILF called the county’s ballot by mail limits “a joke” and said officials were not “serious about a problem disproportionately impacting minority voters.
In response to the news that Dallas County is now probing potential fraud in 1,200 mail ballot applications, PILF tweeted: “It’s becoming a feature of elections there.” PILF cautioned the Texas Legislature they need “to get serious about correcting” the problem by incorporating voter ID components into the process.”
#Dallas County, #TEXAS is probing 1,200 cases of mail #VoterFraud. It’s becoming a feature of elections there. The #txlege needs to get serious about correcting this by introducing #VoterID components into the process. Let’s fix this, @DanPatrick.
— PublicInterestLegal (@PILFoundation) March 13, 2018
The watchdog group sent a pointed message to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R): “Let’s fix this.”
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.