Following the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision to deny the ability of the Attorney General to unilaterally prosecute election violations should local district attorneys refuse to do so, the Texas Public Policy Foundation called for the legislature to restore accountability within our justice system. It proposed two reforms that would ensure the state has an office fully dedicated to protecting the integrity of elections, as well as ensuring that the decision whether to investigate and prosecute crimes is not left entirely in the hands of individuals who may benefit from a vulnerable and potentially corrupt system.
“The ability of our state’s election system to efficiently collect and accurately count every legal vote should never be in question. However, today that is unfortunately the case,” said TPPF CEO Greg Sindelar. “If the courts won’t protect our elections by faithfully interpreting our state Constitution, then the Legislature must step in to clarify the rules, implement better checks and balances, and dedicate a standalone capability to investigate election fraud and ensure our system protects every vote.”
TPPF recommends the Legislature should:
- Establish the Office of Election Integrity. Its primary mission would be to investigate election crime on the part of individuals, such as election fraud, as well as malfeasance or crime on the part of elected or appointed election officials, such as unaudited voter rolls or accepting invalid mail in ballots. Additionally, the Office of Election Integrity would regularly conduct audits of the Texas electoral system to identify loopholes, shortcomings, and other problems. It would then report on these findings to the Texas legislature so that legislators can make informed decisions to fix or reform electoral code.
- Create new District Attorneys and Judges to Enforce Election Law. Texas should establish new regional districts with District Attorneys and Judges vested with the criminal authority to prosecute election crimes and the civil authority to enforce election code requirements against non-cooperating government entities.
“In recent years, the legislature has done a good job of passing reforms that fix some weaknesses in how we collect and count votes,” added Sindelar. “But if certain rogue actors in our justice system refuse to apply the laws the state passes, then more needs to be done to hold them accountable. The vast majority of election fraud convictions in the past 15 years have been brought by the Attorney General’s office, not local district attorneys. Local district attorneys too often refuse to investigate cases that were later successfully prosecuted by the Attorney General. And no office or agency is sufficiently focused or resourced to adequately root out the crimes that occur and the vulnerabilities that are exposed in each election cycle. To protect our election results, that must change soon.”