How Texas Protected Its Vote From Getting ‘Rigged’ In 2020

How Texas Protected Its Vote From Getting ‘Rigged’ In 2020

Mollie Hemingway’s new book, 'Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections,' confirms many fears about Democratic Party plans to change state election laws.
Chuck DeVore
By

Mollie Hemingway’s new book, Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections, is important for what it says—and doesn’t say.

In more than 400 pages of carefully footnoted documentation, Hemingway details how the 2020 election was, according to Time magazine, “fortified” by “a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information.”

Tampering with elections isn’t rocket science—elections have been rigged using the same basic methods since their advent in America: ballot-box stuffing, allowing ballots from ineligible voters, ignoring election integrity rules such as signature verification for mail-in ballots, and allowing for ballot trafficking to pressure or intimidate voters into giving up their right to a secret ballot.

The corporate media, of course, denies that any election rigging could have occurred in 2020. To the extent they do mention election integrity issues, they focus on fantastic and nearly impossible-to-prove or disprove claims of election machine meddling, software manipulation, and tales of servers in Germany and U.S. special forces

As Hemingway points out, however, recent claims of election rigging are hardly the sole domain of conservatives, with “one out of three Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives boycott(ing) Trump’s inauguration” in 2017 because he was an “illegitimate” president due to Russian collusion “to steal the election from Clinton.” She wryly observes that,

From 2016 to 2020, the easiest way to achieve stardom on the political left was to loudly proclaim one’s belief that the 2016 election was illegitimate—stolen by the Russians on behalf of a corrupt traitor…

And then 2020 happened.

At the drop of a hat, America’s electoral system went from irredeemably corrupt and broken in 2016 to unquestionably safe in 2020. Voting methods that were allegedly used to steal elections in 2004 and 2016 suddenly became sacrosanct and unquestionable in 2020. Whereas so-called election experts repeatedly warned pre-2020 about the pitfalls of electronic voting and widespread mail-in balloting, by November 2020 any discussion about the vulnerabilities of those methods was written off as the stuff of right-wing cranks and conspiracy-mongers.

Despite the vehement denials anything was wrong in 2020, it’s worth noting that serious electoral fraud in America is hardly unprecedented. Hemingway’s first mention of Texas occurs in the prologue, where she notes that during the 1960 election “John F. Kennedy won just 118,574 more votes than Richard Nixon” with questionable results in Texas, “a state where Kennedy’s running mate Lyndon B. Johnson had been known to exert control over election results.”

Johnson’s elevation to national prominence came in 1948, when he bested a former Texas governor to win the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate—by 87 votes out of 988,295 cast. Johnson’s margin of “victory” came from ballots counted six days after the election in a county controlled by a political boss.

A single ballot box came accompanied by an election day roster of 200 names, all in alphabetical order and written in the same pen and handwriting. Some 29 years later, after Johnson’s death and two years after the passing of the political boss, election judge Luis Salas admitted that he had certified 202 fraudulent ballots for Johnson.

The Rise of Mail-In Balloting

While it was mostly the left that called electronic voting machines into question prior to the 2020 election, Hemingway doesn’t spend much time on the topic, instead employing Occam’s Razor by reporting on the overwhelming evidence of election rigging sitting out in plain sight. Namely, that’s the nearly billion dollars spent to weaken election rules and procedures and then follow up on that with privately funded staff augmenting urban election offices to exploit the newly created loopholes in the electoral system.

So, what happened in 2020? In a nutshell, Democrats, led by attorney Marc Elias—of discredited Perkins-Coie-Fusion GPS-Steele-Trump-Russia dossier infamy—led a well-funded effort to break down election integrity safeguards, all in the name of pandemic safety. This effort was augmented by Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropic Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), which poured money into elections offices in Democratic strongholds to boost mail-in balloting turnout.

In Texas, CTCL’s donations to elections offices to augment election turnout hit $3.22 per capita in counties that voted for Biden and only $0.55 per capita in Trump counties. A new Texas law effectively ends the practice.

Returning to Hemingway: “But there is no question that Elias played a key role in radically altering election rules and procedures in ways that benefited Democrats. In January 2020, long before anyone knew how COVID-19 might affect voting, Elias published a piece arguing that there was an ‘epidemic of uncounted ballots.’ He said that it was wrong not to count ballots that don’t have signature matches, even though signature matches are one of the very few security measures through which mail-in ballots can be verified.”

Elias then announced a four-part initiative to greatly expand mail-in balloting, including free postage, counting of ballots arriving long after Election Day, relaxed signature verification, and allowing ballot traffickers to visit people’s homes to collect ballots, and, if needed, pressure voters into giving up their ballots (it’s not coincidental that this process mimics union card check elections).

Texas Checked This Danger Before 2020

Texas limits the use of mail-in ballots to those aged 65 and up, voters who will be out of their home county during the election period, voters whose disability makes it difficult or dangerous for them to vote in person, and those confined to jail but who are otherwise eligible. In Texas’ 2010 general election, only 1.8 percent of ballots were cast by mail.

In 2018, the year of the hotly contested U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz and then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke, mail-in ballots soared to 6.2 percent of the total vote. In 2020, they hit about 10 percent of the total. By comparison, in California that year, about 87 percent of the vote was by mail.

Seeing evidence of the weaknesses inherent in vote-by-mail, the Texas Legislature voted to restrict ballot trafficking in 2017, outlawing the practice of campaign workers getting paid by the ballot to harvest votes from people’s homes. Coincidentally, in 2016 and 2017, the California Legislature approved two bills to decriminalize ballot trafficking—the two most populous states exchanged laws, swapping mail-in ballot safeguards for shadiness with the voters losing out.

Despite the tightened rules, campaign organizers, many paid by O’Rourke’s campaign or by third-party efforts funded by the likes of leftist billionaire Tom Steyer, pushed voters to ask for mail-in ballots, claiming disability. The effort was so successful that the average age of those using mail-in ballots under the age of 65 in Texas in 2018 plummeted to 36 years old from 42 in 2016. There were a lot of new Texans claiming to be disabled to vote by mail.

Unfortunately, Texas’ Election Code specified no penalties for falsely claiming a disability. Democrats, led by Elias, sought to exploit this oversight in 2020. In 2021, the Texas Legislature worked to narrow this loophole by passing a law requiring voters to affirm their disability rather than simply checking a box claiming such. Texas also approved legislation requiring voters to place their Texas driver’s license, state ID, or last four of their Social Security number inside a privacy flap when requesting a mail-in ballot and returning one—with a match of the numbers rendering the signature presumed valid.

As the 2020 election approached, Texas’ urban counties, led by Harris County, home to Houston, sought to preemptively mail ballot applications to every voter, under the novel theory that fear of contracting COVID-19 was tantamount to a disability. Harris alone sought to mail out 2.4 million applications, much of it paid for with the CTCL money. But the Texas Supreme Court shut down the effort a month before the election in response to a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, though many applications were sent out by contractors anyway.

The Dangers of Federal Control

While the Texas Legislature, governor, attorney general, and secretary of state’s office have worked to narrow opportunities to rig elections, local elections administrators continue to be the weak link. Hemingway recounts the saga of former Williamson County (an Austin suburb) election administrator Richard L. Barron, who, after screwing up a local election during which he had cops eject a Republican poll watcher, barely survived a 3-2 vote of no-confidence by the county Elections Commission.

Barron was then hired to run elections in Fulton County, Georgia, where the “Atlanta-Journal Constitution speculated that ‘Barron’s run-in with Republicans may boost his chances with a panel where Democrats have a 5-2 majority.’” In 2020, Barron went on to lead the controversial counting operation in Atlanta, where Republican election observers were misled into leaving the central counting operation just as “a small remnant of about four workers began pulling trunks containing thousands of ballots from underneath a table with a long tablecloth and running ballots through machines.” Barron would later deny Republican claims of election irregularities—and a profoundly uncurious press left it at that.

Hemingway’s “Rigged” clearly shows the manifold dangers of the federal attempt to nationalize election rules in HR1/S1. The bill before Congress bulldozes Texas’s election laws and that of other states that take election integrity seriously, imposing in their place California-style election law with no voter ID allowed, blocks against voter list maintenance, same-day registration, and a big expansion in mail-in balloting.

In other words, Democrats want to enact laws that do little to ensure the integrity of our elections, and instead look an awful lot like Marc Elias’s election-rigging wish list.

Chuck DeVore is vice president of national initiatives at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and served in the California State Assembly from 2004 to 2010.

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