Wednesday, January 25, 2006

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Attorney General Abbott Launches Training Initiative To Identify, Prosecute, Prevent Voter Fraud

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today launched a statewide initiative to work with local law enforcement and prosecutors to combat and prevent the persistent problem of voter fraud. The initiative’s initial phase, which will finish before early voting commences for the March primary elections, targets 44 key counties that either have a history of voter fraud or the population of which exceeds 100,000. The initiative was triggered by a dramatic increase in indictments for voter fraud.

“Voter fraud has been an epidemic in Texas for years, but it hasn’t been treated like one. It’s time for that to change,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Trainers from my office are now across the state visiting with prosecutors and law enforcement officers to stop the problem of voter fraud in its tracks. The integrity of our democratic election process must be protected.”

The training, to be conducted by the Attorney General’s new Special Investigations Unit (SIU), will help police departments, sheriff’s offices, and district and county attorneys successfully identify, investigate and prosecute various types of voter fraud offenses. Investigating voter fraud allegations will be one of the primary responsibilities of the SIU, which was established with a $1.5 million grant from the Governor’s office.

The key 44 counties include 18 cities where the Attorney General has previously investigated or prosecuted alleged Election Code violations that were referred by the Secretary of State. 34 of the counties have populations of at least 100,000. The 44 counties contain 78 percent of eligible registered voters in Texas.

Attorney General Abbott continued: “For too long, Texas has turned a blind eye to this fraud, thinking everyone does it, it is too hard to prosecute, it’s not really a serious crime, it’s always taken place, or some other excuse. The reality is that voter fraud is occurring on a large scale when viewed statewide and, consequently, our state elections are significantly impacted. This must stop.”

The Attorney General has obtained four sets of indictments since mid-2005 against individuals for voter fraud in Texas. All were investigated and prosecuted on referral from the Texas Secretary of State.

Earlier this month, two Reeves County women were indicted on charges of illegally possessing and transporting election ballots of several voters.

In December, four individuals were indicted for illegally possessing and transporting election ballots following a May 2005 Robstown ISD election in Nueces County. In November, Attorney General Abbott obtained a guilty plea from a Hardeman County commissioner for collecting mail-in ballots while he was a candidate in the 2004 primary and general elections.

In July the Attorney General also obtained a guilty plea from a Bee County woman accused of voter fraud for mailing an absentee ballot in the name of her mother, who was deceased.