Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - June 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Six Individuals, Texas Democratic Party Drop Lawsuit
Houston County Courier - June 2008
Six individual plaintiffs and the Texas Democratic Party have agreed to drop a lawsuit that sought to prevent the Texas Attorney General from enforcing specific portions of the Election Code.
After initially claiming that a law governing mail-in ballots was unconstitutional, the plaintiffs dropped their lawsuit just before a trial was scheduled to begin in federal District Judge T. John Ward’s East Texas courtroom.
The Wednesday, May 28 agreement to dismiss marked the latest in a string of victories for the State of Texas, which consistently maintained that its efforts to protect the integrity of the elections process were entirely constitutional.
"Election fraud is a serious crime that undermines our democratic system of government,” said Attorney General Greg Abbott.
"After more than a year and a half of pre-trial maneuvering and discovery the plaintiffs discovered that their claims were without basis in fact or law. Today’s dismissal marks an important victory for the integrity of the electoral process.”
The judge’s order dismissing the lawsuit was accompanied by a renewed commitment to ensure voters and political activists have access to information about important legal protections for seniors and disabled voters who rely upon mail-in ballots to mark their votes from home and cast them by mail.
Attorney General Abbott added: "Our democratic process depends upon transparency, accountability and easy access to the ballot box. By continuing to educate voters and political activists about the law, the State of Texas will ensure that elderly and disabled voters are properly informed about legal protections that prevent over-reaching political activists from unlawfully applying pressure to mail-in ballot users.”
Six individual plaintiffs joined the Texas Democratic Party in an attempt to prevent authorities from enforcing a mail-in ballot law authored by then-State Rep. Steve Wolens (D-Dallas).
Passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the Texas House and Senate, Wolens’ legislation helps protect elderly and disabled voters who rely on others for assistance casting their votes.
The law essentially governs how mail-in ballots are handled by those who help elderly and disabled voters transport their votes to the local elections registrar.
To provide accountability, prevent coercion by purported assisters, and protect the integrity of marked ballots, the 2003 law basically requires that those who transmit others’ votes identify themselves by putting their names and addresses on the outside of the ballot envelope.
The plaintiffs’ attempt to challenge Rep. Wolens’ 2003 Texas Election Code amendments hinged on their claim that the law was intended to suppress certain voting groups.
To the contrary, public comments by former Rep. Wolens, his “purpose was to eliminate fraud in absentee balloting.” According to the former state representative, both he and his wife, the former mayor of Dallas, were victims of “rigged elections with people harvesting votes.”
Vote harvesting is a term typically associated with those who illegally stockpile mail-in ballots—which may belong to either actual voters or non-existent voters created by election fraud perpetrators—and therefore undermine the electoral process by casting multiple votes.
The dismissal concludes the plaintiffs’ year and a half long effort to stop the Attorney General from enforcing Election Code provisions that prevent fraud and coercion during the mail-in ballot process.
The plaintiffs’ filed their lawsuit in September, 2006. In the days leading to the November 2006 election, the plaintiffs asked a federal district court to temporarily restrain the State from enforcing challenged Election Code provisions.
An earlier district court decision favoring the plaintiffs was stayed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which ruled that the State could continue enforcing election fraud prevention laws.
The State scored a second victory when the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the plaintiffs’ appeal.
Last January, Texas scored another victory when the Fifth Circuit once again issued a decision favoring the State, vacating an early injunction issued by the trial court.
After conducting months of pre-litigation maneuvering and discovery, during which the state produced thousands of documents, the plaintiffs offered to drop their lawsuit.
Just days before the trial was scheduled to begin, the plaintiffs approached the state about resolving the dispute by dismissing their lawsuit against the Attorney General and working to improve voters’ access to information about state election laws.
Before the court finalized dismissal, the state read a mutually agreed-upon statement into the court record.
That statement reiterated pre-existing policies and procedures that provide guidance to investigators with the Office of the Attorney General who investigate Election Code violations.
Although the dismissal concludes the plaintiffs’ attempt to prevent the Attorney General’s election fraud enforcement efforts, a facial challenge to Section 84.004 of the Election Code still remains before the court.
That provision generally limits the number of early voting applications that a single individual can witness during an election cycle.
The state is not obligated to pay any attorneys fees or expenses in the wake of the plaintiff’s agreement to dismiss with prejudice.
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, when a lawsuit is dismissed with prejudice, the plaintiffs are barred from bringing the same claims again in the future.