The government agencies charged with administering Texas’ elections are not legally responsible for ensuring voter fraud does not occur in the mail-in-ballot process.
Instead, a group of paid volunteers known as the ballot board is charged with rejecting suspicious signatures and identifying irregularities. If they fail to do their job, the door to commit mail-in-ballot fraud is left wide open.
The Texas Scorecard exclusively reported on troubling admissions made by Tarrant County’s former elections administrator, Frank Phillips, who confirmed glaring loopholes in Texas’ mail-in-ballot process.
Despite Phillips admitting the mail-in-ballot process was the most likely place for voter fraud to occur, he absolved his office of any responsibility to prevent it. He stated his office is “not the police,” claiming it’s the Attorney General’s role to ensure election integrity. And even in cases where individuals may have violated the law, he said his office is obligated to process potentially fraudulent mail-in-ballot applications anyways.
“The [election] code states what those persons can and can’t do,” said Phillips. “What the code doesn’t make us is the police. The code says, if somebody [violates the law] we accept that [application], and we process it. With the number of applications we get each year, there’s no way to look at each one and see if that name has been attributed before.”
Phillips resigned from his position last year, amidst a criminal investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, which is currently ongoing. He was abruptly hired by Denton County to oversee their elections.
Voters who wish to vote by mail are usually 65 years or older, or unable to vote in person, and can make up as much as 20 percent of voters in local races. To vote by mail, a voter must sign a form requesting a ballot. After completing their ballot, they must also sign the carrier envelope – which contains the ballot – and mail it back to the county elections office.
The voter’s signature on a ballot-by-mail application must match the signature on the carrier envelope. If a third party assists the voter in filling out the request form, that person must also sign it.
These requirements are intended to prevent anyone from requesting a ballot (or casting a ballot) on someone else’s behalf, without the voter’s knowledge and explicit permission. The problem is that the ballot board are the only gatekeepers ensuring the signatures match. They aren’t accountable to anyone else at the elections office.
If the ballot board processes suspicious ballots with questionable signatures, the election’s staff has no legal obligation to intervene, reject the ballots, notify voters, and contact a higher authority. As Phillips stated, county election’s staff process every form that’s been submitted, without prejudice.
This is precisely why Tarrant County’s alleged voter-fraud problem went unchecked for at least four years. Since their ballot board failed to do their job, no one else at the election’s office was legally compelled to intervene, even if they suspected wrongdoing.
If the staff responsible for administering elections is not obligated to ensure election integrity, Texans shouldn’t be surprised when bad actors abuse the process. It’s beyond time for lawmakers to reform the system.