Capitol Hall Report – March 17, 2016

Validity and Integrity of Texas Elections is Being Compromised 

Texas election laws are not being followed in many counties. Without this consistency, and with the “it’s the way we do it” attitude, this has greatly opened the door to fraud.  The true intent of the Legislature was to ensure voter integrity at the highest expectation is achieved.  Unwarranted waivers allowing election officials to ignore law that was intended to protect the integrity of elections and a blatant disregard for the intent of the legislature is creating unprecedented opportunity for voting fraud in Texas.

Because current Texas election practices and procedures are inconsistent, it is not possible to truthfully validate any election result or conduct a legally sufficient ballot recount in the Texas counties where “electronic” voting, without a paper trail, is being allowed. The procedures for assuring vote integrity, which are clearly stated in the Texas Constitution and Texas Election Code are not being followed.

Texas election laws mandate a system of checks and balances that include paper and electronic tabulation of election results when the polls open and close to prevent fraud and corruption of votes cast electronically.  Specifically, Chapters 65 and 66 of the Texas Election Code provide that when polls close, precinct election returns (Results/Tally tapes) are to be printed, signed, and distributed into official election envelopes at the polling location, prior to the equipment leaving the building.

These statutes mandate the retention of backup paper election records for computerized voting systems to document official vote results and these laws are not superseded by any other statute in the Election Code.  Furthermore, detailed laws and procedures instructing election officials to retain paper precinct returns for electronic voting have been in place for some time:

a) Election Judges sign precinct returns — Texas Election Code § 65.014
b) Original Precinct Returns to be returned in official envelopes —  Texas Election Code § 66.022(1) and Texas Election Code § 66.024(1)
c) 2016 Election Judges Handbook – Adherence to Chapter 66, printing of tapes on p. 54
d) Results/Tally tapes, signed by election judges — Texas SOS Advisory Section 6.11
e) Zero Tapes are to be printed at the polling locations and signed by election judges when the polls open – Texas Administrative Code Rule 81.52.
Currently, there are at least four different procedures being followed throughout Texas with regard to retention of paper backup election records for electronic voting.  Many counties conduct precinct level voting. Some of these counties print the tapes and some do not.  Likewise, there are counties using countywide voting locations. Some of them print tapes and some do not.  Without the printed tapes there is no way to validate the computerized election results. These inconsistencies in election record retention are breeding ground for election fraud and is an unacceptable practice for anyone who believes in the rule of law.  Unfortunately many of these inconsistencies are driven by waiver letters, which direct counties to ignore the above election laws. These waivers are being provided by the Texas Secretary of State’s Election Division Office.

As public servants we have an obligation and duty to ensure integrity and operational consistency for our elections. Taking short cuts or establishing procedures to “make it easier on election officials or to save time” at the sacrifice of vote integrity and record retention should be unacceptable to responsible government officials. A growing number of constituent complaints have been made across the state that Texas Election Code violations are resulting in highly questionable election results.

Due to an increasing number of complaints, it is time for the Texas Elections Division Office to take immediate and decisive action to rescind all waivers issued by that office instructing the local election officials to violate election law and instruct all Texas counties using electronic voting systems to consistently adhere to all election laws including but not limited to Texas Election Code statutes 65.014, 66.022, 66.023.

Regardless if Texas counties use precinct voting locations or countywide voting locations, all Texas counties should consistently instruct their election judges to a) print and sign Zero Tapes when the polls open for early voting and on election day, and b) print and sign precinct returns (audit tapes/Tally/Results tapes) directly when the polls close at the polling location, when the polls close for early voting and on election day.

In addition, the Secretary of State’s office should cease issuing waivers that instruct county election officials to operate elections unlawfully and in an inconsistent manner across the state.  Vote integrity is one of the most sacred responsibilities of our government. Without integrity, we have no legitimate government.