FORNEY, Texas – An election won by one vote has now been contested in a lawsuit filed in Kaufman County on Monday – alleging widespread voter fraud, corruption, and paid “ballot harvesting.”
The election challenge lawsuit filed late Monday night by Kaufman County Court at Law No. 1 candidate Tracy Booker Gray also alleges “systematic, fraudulent use of the ballot system” in the use of absentee ballots “possibly illegally facilitated by members of the [Ballot] Board.”
Various local elected officials and current and past members of the Ballot Board are alleged to have “turned a blind-eye” – failing to report illegal voting activities and paid ballot harvesting – not only in this contested race but, several over a span of more than a decade, according to an original petition filed in the case.
As votes began to tally on election day, Gray led early voting by 2,989 to 2,977 votes and election day voting by 2,227 to 2,096 votes — a 143 vote lead.
Of 664 absentee ballots, incumbent Judge Dennis Jones led by a nearly 2-to-1 margin with 404 to 260 votes — enough for a mere one vote lead.
The election results were certified by the Kaufman County Republican Party on March 15, 2018, and, after reviewing the absentee ballot applications, the Gray campaign alleges at least 11 of those ballots “did not satisfy statutory requirements to be counted as part of the Contested election.”
Additionally, there were at least 45 more “who fit the pattern as these 11 which bear investigation through discovery for illegal and fraudulent voting,” states the petition.
The lawsuit also contends there were at least 12 provisional ballots that should have been counted but were not.
“History of suspicious absentee ballot patterns”
According to the petition, an election judge in Terrell's Precinct 26, namely Brenda Denson Prince, was allegedly involved in “ballot harvesting for hire in Kaufman County elections.”
“It is common knowledge in political circles since the 2006 General Election, that Brenda Prince is involved in ballot harvesting for hire in Kaufman County Elections,” states the petition.
Prince, in a phone interview with inForney.com on Tuesday, denies the allegations.
“Nobody paid me to go out an assist with voting,” she said. “If somebody did pay me, then they need to show me the money.”
“I do what I do every year, my civic duty, and none of it would affect the elections,” she said.
“I didn't do anything illegal and was only paid to do my civic duty assisting at the polls,” she said. “I wasn't paid by anyone for voting for anyone.”
As an election judge, Prince is paid by Kaufman County for her duties during the election. Poll workers are also paid for their work.
In 2006, then a candidate and now current Justice of the Peace, Mike Smith, discovered Prince's name on almost 300 absentee ballots cast for his opponent and, at the time, determined Prince had harvested those votes for payment, according to the petition.
“However, having won his race, he decided not to invest the money required in contesting the election or otherwise bringing the fraud to the attention of the authorities, especially since most of the elected officials seemed to be aware of the services she provided,” further states the petition. “Therefore, she's never been prosecuted.”
Prince says, when she did assist with ballots, it was done according to her training and always signed in accordance with that training.
“Contestant will show that numerous current and past members of the Board, as well as various local elected officials were all aware to some extent of the nature of Ms. Prince’s work, and had various opportunities to file an official complaint with the Secretary of State or the District Attorney’s Office, and not only failed to do so, but actively turned a blind-eye to this activity so that should they ever require Ms. Prince’s services, they could so avail themselves and/or their campaign.”
Ballot Board alleged to have counted numerous unlawful ballots and rejected other lawful ballots
Gray hired a team of investigators to review the list of absentee ballots which revealed, in part, that several voters voted twice by mail despite voting with the same voter ID, some voters were otherwise fraudulently or illegally assisted by Prince in voting, that ballots were given to Prince for submission, and that some were submitted by Prince without the voter's knowledge.
One specific address on West End Street in Terrell, according to election rolls, was the residence of several voters who otherwise did not live, resided in an assisted care facility, or were illegally assisted by Prince in voting, states the lawsuit.
One voter was allegedly unable to physically vote without assistance, likely also illegally assisted by Prince.
A voter on South Adelaide Street told Gray's investigators she believed someone ordered an absentee ballot at her address and presented herself in person to vote, giving cause to cancel the absentee ballot.
At least 11 provisional ballots were improperly rejected by the Ballot Board for lack of voter registration despite the voter registering online with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
“...Such information was made known to the Secretary of State and the Kaufman County Elections Department through the DPS portal, thus said rejections were made in violation of the Federal Motor Voter Act,” states the petition. “These ballots were not counted but should have been.”
An additional ballot was unlawfully rejected based on the voter's last name, according to the petition.
Grays investigators also discovered some voters were registered to vote at addresses that were vacant lots or abandoned homes, addresses that did not exist, or the registered voter was found to not exist.
Other irregularities “cast down validity of election outcome”
Gray is also alleging other irregularities “cast down on the validity” and “raise the stench of impropriety and appalling lack of fairness” in this contested race.
Those alleged improprieties began even before the election when Gray filed her application for a place on the ballot. Her application was allegedly “intentionally misplaced” by the Kaufman County Republican Party secretary in an effort to make it unavailable for the party chairman to sign.
“Numerous votes were obtained and/or influenced by Kaufman County officers and/or employees or by improper use of city of county resources, in violation of state law,” states the petition.
The petition alleges Gray's poll watchers were unable to access the Ballot Board Room and Central County Room and were not permitted to take notes and see or witness the operations of the ballot board while out-of-county poll watchers were present in the Ballot Board Room without proper identification and permitted “unfettered access to the room without submission of a form.”
“On at least one occasion, the Ballot Board convened at a time much earlier than the meeting time conveyed to poll watchers for the contestant, so that when Contestant's poll watchers presented themselves for duty, they were informed the work they had come to watch had been done at a different time,” reads the petition.
A member of the board who handled ballots was permitted a spot on the Recount Committee for the recount that was conducted, in violation of the Election Code, according to the petition.
Additionally, an employee of the Kaufman County Clerk's Office posted on social media, before the canvas had taken place, that Gray lost the election, lost a recount of the election, and that voters should “get over it,” states the petition.
Special judge to preside over the contested election
“Notably, the improbable number of ballots from the Terrell area, the obvious pattern of absentee ballot harvesting by Prince, combined with the other irregularities and Election Code violations, raise the specter of outright election fraud in this contest,” states the petition.
Gray is requesting a hearing to review the evidence and ascertain the validity of the votes to determine a lawful winner in the race for Kaufman County Court at Law No. 1 or to declare the election void and order a new election.
“Pursuant to Section 231.004 of the Election Code, the judge of this district court is disqualified to preside over this contest,” states the petition. “Therefore, the presiding judge of the administrative judicial region must assign a special judge to preside in the contest.”
inForney.com reached out to Jones for comment on the election challenge and the allegations of voter fraud and ballot harvesting. At the time of press, a response had not been received.
Disclosure: Tracy Gray is an attorney and partner at the Guest & Gray law firm which has been and is a current advertising client of inForney.com, a nonpartisan news organization serving Kaufman County and the surrounding areas, for the purposes of online banner advertisement placement. Additionally, Gray's campaign for Kaufman County Court at Law No.1 was a paid advertising client. These rendered services played no role in inForney.com's journalism and are separate in their processes.
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