Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Texas Bill Battles Voter Fraud by Mail

Voter Fraud, voter integrity, voter ID, and election reform has become a front-line issue in many US states, especially "battleground" and more conservative leaning states.

True the Vote and Verify the Vote are two organizations at the forefront of the fight against voter fraud. True the Vote got its start after an investigation into alleged voter fraud in a US Congressional District near Houston, TX. An alarming number of questionably cast and tallied ballots were found, most of them favoring the congresswoman elected.

Since, Texas has started taking steps to deter and prevent future instances that could allege voter fraud or gerrymandering.

Mental Aikido recently reported on a bill, SB 904, that would reform early voter lists in an effort to better assure military service members legally registered to vote in Texas could vote by mail, streamlining an outdated absentee ballot system. That effort to counter voter fraud does so by adding military and dependents to the Permanent Early Voter List.

Now the Texas Senate is considering HB 148. HB 148 is another bill designed to combat voter fraud. It limits the number of absentee or early ballots an individual may mail in to ten ballots. The bill has already passed the Texas House and will likely pass the Senate within the next few weeks. Unfortunately, it won't be enacted in time to affect the current local election cycle currently in an early voting stage, with a formal election day on May 11, 2013.

       SECTION 1.  Section 86.0051, Election Code, is amended by adding Subsections (b-1) and (f) and amending Subsections (c), (d), and (e) to read as follows: 
       (b-1)  A person to whom Section 86.006(f)(4) applies may not deposit in the mail or with a common or contract carrier more than 10 carrier envelopes containing ballots voted by other persons in an election.  This subsection does not apply to a carrier envelope containing a ballot voted by a member of the armed forces of the United States or the spouse or dependent of a member.

The bill goes a step further in prohibiting somebody from accepting or offering compensation for providing assistance in casting early or absentee ballots. Violating the new law would be a criminal offense.

Sec. 86.0052.  COMPENSATION OF ANOTHER FOR COLLECTING BALLOTING MATERIALS PROHIBITED. (a) A person commits an offense if the person compensates another person to engage in conduct prohibited by Section 86.0051(b-1). 
       (b)  Except as provided by Subsection (c), an offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by: 
             (1)  confinement in jail for a term of not more than one year or less than 30 days; or 
             (2)  confinement described by Subdivision (1) and a fine not to exceed $4,000.
       (c)  An offense under this section is a state jail felony if it is shown on the trial of an offense under this section that the defendant was previously convicted two or more times under this section.

The bill will reduce and deter voter fraud. To understand how requires some knowledge on some voter fraud tactics.

In a modern version of "ballot stuffing", activists will sometimes alter absentee and PEVL ballots. What they do is claim they are assisting voters. If a voter fails to complete the ballot, they will fill-in any measures left blank by the voter. They will then return the altered ballots.

Another tactic is having the ballots mailed to them directly. They then go to "assist" the voters, getting their signature or permission to witness. The "assistant" then fills in the ballots in favor of their candidate regardless of the desires of the person whom they claim to assist.

A third tactic involves collecting the ballots and voting on them, producing forged signatures.

One more tactic is they collect the ballots then screen them. They return only the ones with votes they agree with or favor. Any ballots they do not agree with are destroyed or altered.

To hamper and reduce these "collection house" efforts, this bill keeps any so-called "assistant" from mailing in a mass number of ballots. Each activist is restricted to 10 ballots, rather than having access to hundreds.

The bill does not affect military Voting Assistance Officers, who are bound by federal laws and the UCMJ, from helping military members vote. VAOs are exempted from the bill.