State election investigators are headed for Gregg County.
Allegations of ‘vote harvesting’ in Precinct 4 have captured the attention of the Texas Attorney General and the Texas Senate’s new Select Committee on Election Security. Local officials gathered on the steps of Gregg County Courthouse Wednesday to announce a looming multi-agency inquiry into apparent discrepancies in returns from March’s Democratic primary.
“For several election cycles, Gregg County has experienced irregularities in mail-in ballot returns originating from the commissioners court, Precinct 4,” Rep. Jay Dean said Wednesday.
A Longview resident’s complaint sparked the investigation into ballots cast in the race for the Democratic nomination for the Pct. 4 seat, he added: Rev. D.J. Nelson originally reached out to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, and the questionable numbers are now in the hands of Texas AG Ken Paxton’s Election Fraud Division. “These mail-in ballot returns stand out for the sheer volume and for the curious percentage of ballots requested for the reason of disability.
“I believe, and I think the numbers back me up, that this voter harvesting has been going on for some time.”
The race for the Democratic nomination for Gregg County Prec. 4 Commissioner ended with 1,047 votes for contender Shannon Brown to 1,042 for candidate Kasha Williams.
There were 940 applications for vote-by-mail, Dean noted. Among those, 367 cited ‘disability’ as the reason for the absentee ballot.
“That’s 39 percent of the mail-in ballots,” he said. “By the way of comparison, the total number of applications to vote by mail because of disability from the other precincts, combined, only makes up 2.5 percent of all applicants.
“I believe there are honest, disabled applicants who choose to vote by mail in all precincts, which is their right, but we wonder why there are 15 times more applicants for ballot-by-mail because of disability in Precinct 4.”
Sen. Bryan Hughes – who’s leading the Senate’s Election Security Committee – joined Dean on the courthouse steps alongside Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt, Sheriff Maxey Cerliano, District Attorney Carl Dorrough and interim Pct. 4 Commissioner Daryl Williams.
Nelson did not attend Wednesday’s announcement, which drew more than 60 people to the courthouse.
“This is a big deal,” Hughes said, with eyes across the state turning to Gregg County and the AG’s investigation in partnership with the offices of the local sheriff and district attorney. “We’re looking at elections all over the state. As we do that, we have to be honest: this race in Gregg County Precinct 4 the last primary really stands out.
“If you look statewide, about nine percent of the ballots cast statewide were absentee. In this race, 32 percent. Something is different. It’s something worth looking at. It demands that we look at it.”
Following vote canvassing, a recount and a second canvass in March, Williams contested the election results in court in early April. The lawsuit ended when visiting Judge Jack Carter ruled the candidate’s challenge was filed too late, upholding Brown as the Democrat nominee to face Republican nominee G. Floyd in November.
But it’s not about who won or who lost, Hughes said. The investigation won’t change the primary’s outcome.
“It’s about those numbers that just scream for an investigation,” he said. “Too many people have fought, too many people have died to secure, to preserve and to extend that right to vote to every American regardless of race, color or creed.
“This is too important for us to ignore. If the law was broken, folks need to be held accountable, and the lessons we learn here will help us strengthen the law going forward.”
Kilgore City Council member Victor Boyd also attended Wednesday’s press conference along with Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin. Boyd previously lived in Precinct 4.
Looking at the recent results in the commissioners court race, “The numbers speak for themselves,” he said. “It’s about the numbers. Someone swayed the people voting to take the actions they’ve taken.
“It’s just obvious that it needs to be looked into.”
Noting the various agencies that will be involved in the investigation – initially estimated to last three to six months – Stoudt asked anyone with information on the “alleged organized vote harvesting in Gregg County” to contact the DA’s office, the sheriff’s department, the Texas Attorney General or Gregg County Crime Stoppers.
“As this process begins, we would anticipate that there will be plenty of witnesses,” Dean added this week.
Public comments from the investigators will be restricted as the inquiry proceeds in Precinct 4. Similar investigations are getting underway in other parts of the state.
“The fact that it’s here in our home, in our back yard, we really have to clean this up if there’s something there.”