Elisabeth Meinecke
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Both the Left and Right have expressed concern over potential abuse in America’s current voting process. But as the rhetoric flies, what are the facts? And is the Department of Justice heeding all concerns?

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From Townhall Magazine's EXCLUSIVE March feature, "Voter ID Laws: Racist or Reasonable?," by Brandon Darby:

There’s been much said lately about election integrity and voter identification laws. Both sides of the American political spectrum have raised concerns over polls and potential abuses in the American voting process. In fact, due to the serious voter registration irregularities identified by groups like True the Vote in Texas, along with the numerous voter fraud convictions across the nation involving workers from politically motivated groups like the failed organization ACORN, many states are pursuing photo identification as a means of addressing such assaults on election integrity. Texas, South Carolina and Florida have all taken steps to mandate photo identification as a requirement for voting. ...

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Take, for example, Harris County, the county encompassing Houston, Texas. The irregularities in voter registration in this jurisdiction have raised serious concerns over election integrity through the investigative efforts of nonprofits and Harris County agencies alike.

True the Vote, a nonpartisan, Houston-based nonprofit focusing on electoral integrity has revealed some startling information. Their effort, which started out of a small tea party group, focused on volunteering as poll workers in their local 2009 elections. According to the group’s founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, what started as a simple effort to exercise civic duty and get involved brought them face to face with what she referred to as frightening and gross incompetence on the part of some election and county workers at the polls. Engelbrecht pointed out in her interview with Townhall that even though Texas law allowed 11 different forms of identification to be used at that time to verify identity, which was required to vote, she and her 70 election volunteers noticed that many voters were being allowed to vote without any identification at all. Texas has since passed voter identification laws which require the use of a photo identification card.

Engelbrecht’s volunteers ultimately submitted 800 signed affidavits outlining problems they encountered, including having overheard some election judges telling people who they should and should not vote for. After these experiences, the group decided to form True the Vote and to investigate how citizens could help ensure voter integrity and what processes existed to report abuses or irregularities. Engelbrecht says these efforts revealed even more frightening examples of degradation to the election process.

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Engelbrecht’s True the Vote organization then decided to look at the actual registry and not just the new registrations. The group obtained the nearly 2,000,000-person Harris County Voter Registry Role. The group subdivided the registry by congressional district due to the size of the data.

After the registry was divided into the seven congressional districts which Harris County encompasses, True the Vote needed a starting point to isolate red flags for possible irregularities. They decided to start looking at registrations that had addresses six or more people were registered to.

The group found the seven congressional districts had four that were predominantly Republican and three that were predominantly Democratic. The four predominantly Republican districts had a range from 1,973 to 3,300 addresses with six or more people registered to them. The three predominantly Democratic districts had much higher numbers. Though this could possibly be attributed to variations in socioeconomic factors between the predominantly Republican and predominantly Democratic districts, what the group found next was alarming. The predominantly Democratic districts themselves had large variations between them in the number of addresses with six or more registered voters. The first had 7,560, the second 8,981, and the third—the district of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the prominent, outspoken Democratic congresswoman—had 19,596 instances with six or more voters registered at one address.

True the Vote then compared the socio-economic demographics of the three predominantly Democratic congressional districts in an effort to explain why Jackson Lee’s district could have such a high number in comparison. Engelbrecht told Townhall the group had found no significant difference to explain such a drastic variation in the numbers.

The group began doing research into the abnormalities in Jackson Lee’s district. They took the first 3,800 registrations of the flagged 19,596 homes with six or more registrants and began to investigate further. The group visited addresses and scoured property tax records. The group found many of the addresses were vacant lots or business addresses. Thirty-nine were registered at businesses and 97 of the addresses were nonexistent. One hundred six of the registrations revealed the same registrant registered more than once, and 207 of the addresses turned out to be vacant lots. Meanwhile, 595 registrations had registrants with driver’s license addresses not matching the registration, and many were voting in a district they did not live in. Of the random 3,800 registrations from Jackson Lee’s predominantly Democratic district, 25 percent had critical errors which Engelbrecht believes could result in an erosion of election integrity.

The media began to focus on the findings from the Harris County tax assessor’s office and True the Vote. Shortly after the August 24 press conference announcing the results of the office’s investigation, a fire of unknown origins burned down the warehouse containing all of Harris County’s voting equipment. In total, the fire claimed 10,000 voting machines, which was approximately $30,000,000 worth of equipment.  ...

Read more of Brandon Darby's piece in the March isssue of Townhall Magazine.

Order Townhall Magazine today to read the full report in the March issue.

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Elisabeth Meinecke

Elisabeth Meinecke is TOWNHALL MAGAZINE Managing Editor. Follow her on Twitter @lismeinecke.