Election officers in two of the most populous counties in Texas have yet to decide whether to refer suspected cases of improper balloting that were discovered in reviews of the 2016 general election in November. In addition, election officials in other parts of Texas are planning to let the mistakes go.
Even while Texas requires voters to show one of seven approved forms of identification in order to cast ballots, in August enforcement was relaxed in order to allow persons not in possession of a driver’s license or other photo ID to vote upon signing an affidavit that they have an impediment in obtaining the required identification. So far, officials have not referred possible cases of perjury or election law violations to prosecutors.
Even after the affidavits were introduced, voters who had an accepted photo ID were still required to show it at the polls.
The revelations may serve to validate concerns frequently voiced by Donald Trump, before and after the election, that balloting is vulnerable to fraudulent practices all around the country. President Trump, for example, has stated that he could have won the popular vote if 3 million to 5 million immigrants, not authorized to vote, had not voted for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
According to the Associated Press, of the approximately 13,500 affidavits submitted in Texas' largest counties, 500 instances were found of voters who were allowed to circumvent Texas law by merely signing an affidavit and thus never showed a photo ID as required by law, despite indicating that they possessed one.
Some voters actually used the sworn declarations in order to issues their protests against the law. For example, in Hidalgo County, an affidavit read: "Did not want to 'pander' to government requirement."Hidalgo County lies along the US border with Mexico. In Tarrant County, whose county seat is Fort Worth and is the third-most populous county in Texas, an election judge wrote: "Had photo ID but refused to show it."
It was in Tarrant County that Rosa Ortega, a Mexican national, claimed she was a citizen on her voter application. She was convicted for fraud and faces eight years in prison and eventual deportation. She has four minor children who are American citizens. The district attorney’s office now wants such claims of citizenship to be verified before voter registrations are authorized.
Stephen Vickers, chief deputy elections administrator for Tarrant County, said that if a person claims to have an appropriate ID yet refuses to show, that would be a possible case for prosecution.
Both Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have cited the Ortega case as proof that Trump’s charges of voter fraud is a real concern. Abbott stated on Twitter: "In Texas you will pay a price for Voter Fraud."
Questionable affidavits were found in Tarrant County were found to amount to at least 25, while Bexar County, where San Antonio is the county seat, it is estimated that at least 600 affidavits should have been rejected and voters should have been told to submit provisional ballots instead. In Travis County, which is home to the state capital, Austin, officials estimate that 70 cases among the approximately 2,300 affidavits submitted.
Outside of Houston, more than 15 percent of voters in Fort Bend County who submitted 313 affidavits said they possessed a photo identification but were not required to comply with the law. Because of a 2016 court order, election officials were not allowed to ask voters their reasons for signing an affidavit. Fort Bend County elections chief John Oldham said that he does not believe that the persons involved should be prosecuted.
Affidavits were introduced when an appeals court ruled that the voter ID law unlawfully discriminated against certain minorities. Voters citing a variety of reasons -- illness, disability, work schedule conflicts, and lack of transportation -- were encompassed by the ruling. New York University's Brennan Center for Justice estimates show that more than 16,000 affidavits were submitted in Texas.