FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Documenting Voting Irregularities in Texas Elections and Why They Matter

It’s not the first time I’ve occupied a room filled with state documents in Texas, but it is the first time that I’ve been treated to full-time surveillance while I thumb through everything, and actually I’m kind of happy about this. The chaperones have been altogether polite and quiet. And the surveillance itself is the best sign the state could send me that I’m probably taking notes on the right documents Tuesday.

The most significant section of this ten-foot row of notebooks set up in front of me is a group of original depositions taken from Houston-area residents who were accused of stray voting in the November election when they cast ballots in the district that elected Vietnamese immigrant Hubert Vo to the state house.

Page after page of these depositions tell mundane stories of voters who once moved from Houston to Sugar Land but who didn’t keep up with their paperwork, went back to Houston to vote, and then two months later got their doors knocked on by people with pens, carrying threatening documents that said in dandy legal language, you better answer these questions or we’ll throw you in jail: Where do you really live and who did you vote for?

“Told us not to come back,” is the pointed note that one process server makes on threatening documents that were intended for delivery to a voter in Katy, Texas at 4:30 p.m. on New Years Day. Since she told them to get lost, and refused to incriminate herself as a voter who crossed back to her old neighborhood on election day, attorneys went to work on her file. They showed that according to the tax district she owned the home in Katy and that according to Mapquest the home was 6.58 miles away from the elementary school where she voted. And of course they had a copy of her signature at the voting place and a copy of the statement of residence that she was asked to fill out there. Two days before the hearing, they went back and got their deposition from her, too. In the end, she never gave a clear answer about who she voted for.

This is the kind of thing you see over and over again, the kind of thing that put everyone to sleep during two days of public hearings that failed to overturn the election. Time after time, dedicated voters got caught failing to keep their registrations in order, and people just dozed off. So the hearing room was pretty much cleared out by the morning of Jan. 28 when Master of Discovery Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) sat silently looking at the deposition of a citizen from Fresno, Texas.

“Um, I’m just going to point this out, I don’t know what to make of it, but this one has different ink and maybe different handwriting. I’m no handwriting expert but I think the parties should look at this. It definitely has two different pens on it, and I don’t know the handwriting is hard to tell, you all just need to look at this.”

http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/legal/elec_contests.html

At which point (1:26:31 into the Friday morning broadcast archived online) Republican attorney Larry Taylor walks briskly to the Master, retrieves Ms. Wyatt’s deposition, and flips the pages dramatically.

“I’d just suggest contestee look at it to see if there’s any possible irregularities,” says Hartnett, index finger on chin. “The main answer appears to be in the same ink as the person’s name, so that’s my primary interest, but it’s just odd, it looks that the N/As (indicating that a question is not applicable) are in a different pen. But you all can look at that later if you want, I’m just pointing it out.”

By this time, attorney Larry Veselka (representing contestee Hubert Vo) is saying that the N/As are indeed in different ink, different handwriting, and appear to match certain other N/As found on other depositions that have been turned in only days before the hearing. Meanwhile Republican attorney Taylor is huddling with his client, the deposed incumbent, saying something very close to his ear.

My own notes from reviewing the deposition in question on Tuesday suggest that the N/As are not in the flowing cursive style that the voter uses for the rest of her answers. And her signature is written in the same ink that the server of the deposition uses to write his own name.

“We really need a brighter light to look at it,” said Hartnett on the day of the hearing.

“Yeah,” said Veselka, pointing out that the deposition had been signed Jan. 21, less than a week before the hearing, and six days after the close of the discovery period, Jan. 15.

The very next deposition taken up on Jan. 28 by Hartnett also had N/As that Hartnett and Veselka agreed fit a pattern of looking more like each other than the handwriting of the voters in question.

My notes show that there are at least two more depositions with N/A look-alikes submitted into the record on Feb. 1, the Tuesday after the hearing ended, along with another deposition that has two colors of ink.

I also found in the batch of Feb. 1, two returns of service, both dated 9:30 a.m. Jan. 26 and signed by the same voter. The most likely explanation would be that the voter was served with two subpoenas at once. But why was one service receipt printed on a fax machine while another was not? And why were two subpoenas needed?

I ponder the puzzles of these documents, their careful protection, and their lack of public attention as I walk out of the state building past television trucks that are set up for live shots on the evening news. I know what they won’t be reporting again.

For example, they won’t be reporting the deposition of one 49-year-old Houston voter who I will name with the initials MP. Somehow MP’s deposition didn’t make the final list, and my guess is that the case was dropped like a hot potato because MP testified with such clarity that the Republican attorneys did not want to discuss the deposition in public.

But in order to get in the mood for MP’s deposition you have to first read the subpoena that like all the others is signed by Republican attorney Andy Taylor and commands: “HEREIN, FAIL NOT, but have you then and there before me, at said time and place this writ, with your return thereon, showing you have executed the same.”

And next you have to read the Jan. 11 letter from Hartnett that says, “If you do not cooperate, I, working under the jurisdiction of the Select Committee on Election Contests, have the power to cause you to be taken into custody by law enforcement, and held until you answer the requested questions.”

And then you have to read how you are ordered to appear at your own home at 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 15 (the last day of discovery) to submit your answers in writing to the questions that have been handed to you. Now you are ready to read MP:

Question 12: “Has anyone ever tried to intimidate you in any way or accuse you of breaking the law when asking you about voting in the Nov. 2, 2004 general election?”

MP: “Not until I got this notice from Mr. Heflin” (the deposed Republican incumbent who demanded this election contest).

Question 13: “What did they say or do to you?”

MP: “It seems like I’m accused for cheating. I don’t think I did anything wrong on that day. I went to vote as one of my duties as an American to support the country. I feel sad to fill out this paper. Those candidates are not pursuing their career for the country but for their own fame and money? How sad it is!” And just to make clear how she feels about her candidate, she answers elsewhere: “I’m glad I did vote for Mr. Hubert Vo.”

Intimidation is what MP calls the election contest, and that experience of intimidation is what makes irregularities in ink color and handwriting vibrant issues for all of us. If the law is serious about calling voters to account for their irregularities, it should be just as serious about the irregularities that crop up wherever voters are pursued. If we are entitled to fair elections, we are also entitled to fair election contests. Which is why I am pleased to be watched every minute that I handle the sacred depositions of the voters from House District 149. And why I look forward to returning once again to hear the stories they tell…

GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net

More articles by:

Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail