AUSTIN, Texas (NewsNation Now) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Thursday announced the arrest of four people on charges in connection with an organized vote harvesting scheme during the 2018 Democratic primary election in Gregg County.
NewsNation affiliate KETK reports the charges stem from allegations of vote harvesting made during the 2018 election race for Gregg County Pct. 4 County Commissioner between Gregg County Commissioner Shannon Brown and Kasha Williams.
Brown won the election, squeaking by Williams in the election by just four votes.
Gregg County Commissioner Shannon Brown, Marlena Jackson, Charlie Burns, and DeWayne Ward were arrested on a collective 134 felony charges filed by the state, including engaging in organized election fraud, illegal voting, fraudulent use of an application for a mail-in ballot, unlawful possession of a mail-in ballot, tampering with a governmental record, and election fraud.
In a news release, the Attorney General’s office said the four defendants sought to increase the pool of ballots needed to “swing the race in Brown’s favor,” by targeting “young, able-bodied voters to cast ballots by mail by fraudulently claiming the voters were ‘disabled,’ in most cases without the voters’ knowledge or consent.”
Under Texas election law, mail ballots based on disability are specifically reserved for those who are physically ill and cannot vote in-person as a result.
An allegation of impropriety lodged by the Rev. D.J. Nelson, a Pct. 4 voter, launched an investigation into the race.
“In the state, 9 percent of the ballots cast were absentee,” Nelson told KETK at the time. “So 9 percent statewide, but in Gregg County it was 32 percent.”
The grand jury returned indictments on 23 felony counts against Brown, 97 felony counts against Jackson, eight felony counts against Charlie Burns, and six felony counts against DeWayne Ward. Penalties for these offenses range from six months in state jail to 99 years in prison.
“It is an unfortunate reality that elections can be stolen outright by mail ballot fraud. Election fraud, particularly an organized mail ballot fraud scheme orchestrated by political operatives, is an affront to democracy and results in voter disenfranchisement and corruption at the highest level,” said Paxton. “Mail ballots are vulnerable to diversion, coercion, and influence by organized vote harvesting schemes. This case demonstrates my commitment to ensuring Texas has the most secure elections in the country, and I thank the Gregg County Sheriff and District Attorney for their continued partnership. Those who try to manipulate the outcome of elections in Texas must be held accountable.”
The Office of the Attorney General was assisted by the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office during the investigation. The Texas Attorney General will prosecute the case alongside the Gregg County District Attorney.
Read copies of the indictments here.
NewsNation affiliate KETK contributed to this report