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Elec­tion Integrity

Secure elections are the cornerstone of a thriving republic.  The legislature made significant improvements in the laws governing state election integrity in 2017 which has caused a steady increase in the number of voter fraud referrals.  A key priority of the Attorney General is to investigate and prosecute the increasing allegations of voter fraud to ensure election integrity within Texas.

427

Successfully prosecuted election fraud offenses by the Office of the Attorney General since 2004

59

The number of prosecuted election violations in 2018 alone, with 35 counts pending prosecution

71

The number of currently active election fraud investigations

What is election fraud?

Election fraud, in the most general sense, is any attempt to subvert or manipulate the electoral process by illegal means.

What type of election fraud activities occur?

There are over 100 different criminal offenses within the Texas Election Code, but the majority fall into a few major categories. 

Illegal voting:  Illegal voting is when a person who is not qualified to vote, such as non-citizens, non-residents, and felons, casts a vote.  Illegal voting also includes voter impersonation or voting another person’s ballot. 

Mail Ballot fraud:  This activity is also known as vote harvesting.  Vote harvesting exploits the inherent insecurities of the mail ballot system in two phases: seeding and harvesting.  In the seeding phase, applications for mail ballots are generated to saturate targeted precincts with mail ballots.  Commonly used schemes involve gaining voters’ signatures by deception, intimidation, or forgery; and/or fraudulently making an application for a voter who is not qualified to vote by mail, often by claiming that an able-bodied person is disabled.  In the harvesting phase, workers target voters as they receive their ballots in the mail and obtain votes for the candidates they support, either by intimidation, deception, compensation, influence, or outright theft of the ballot itself.

Voter Assistance fraud:  Exploiting the legitimate voter assistance process intended for voters who cannot physically mark their own ballots, in order for campaign workers to insert themselves into the voting process.   Campaign workers approach voters in parking lots of polling places and, often implying that they are official election workers, tell voters they are going to “assist” them with the voting process.  Election clerks are trained not to question whether the voter is qualified for assistance or has requested the “assistant” to help them. Votes are then secured for the candidates of the assistant’s choice.

What are the penalties associated with election fraud?

Penalties range from misdemeanor offenses up to felonies, depending on the offense.  In 2017, the Texas Legislature increased the penalties for most mail ballot related offenses to state jail felonies or higher.

What is the Office of the Attorney General’s role in enforcing the election laws?

The Office of the Attorney General has statewide investigation authority and concurrent prosecution authority with local elected prosecutors over the election laws of the State.  The OAG has deep experience and specialized resources to help train or assist local law enforcement and prosecution in working up complex and challenging election fraud cases.

How are election fraud cases referred to the Office of the Attorney General?

An individual may submit an election complaint to the Texas Secretary of State through the use of a form found online at: http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/complaintform-sos.pdf.  The Secretary of State will refer these complaints to the Office of the Attorney General to investigate the allegations and prosecute election fraud.  Chapter 273, Texas Election Code, gives the OAG authority to investigate and prosecute election code violations anywhere in Texas.  Note, for a campaign-related complaint, please contact the Texas Ethics Commission.

Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Voter Fraud

Know Your Rights

  • You have the right to vote however you choose.  It is a crime for someone to pressure or influence you while you are voting.
  • If you have a disability or if you are 65 or older, you have the right to vote by mail-in or absentee ballot or in person at the polling location. 
  • An elections official will never approach you at your home or outside of your polling place to offer assistance or take your ballot.  Do not give your ballot to an individual you do not trust. 
  • You have the right to vote your ballot by yourself, in secret.  Choose someone you trust to help you if you cannot fill out your ballot yourself.
  • If you do allow a person to assist you with reading and marking your ballot, you have the right to inspect the ballot for accuracy. 
  • It is a crime for someone to take your mail ballot from you, unless you are physically incapable of mailing your own ballot and you request assistance.

For any questions regarding election laws, please consult with the Secretary of State

For questions relating to political campaigns, please consult the Texas Ethics Commission.

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