Texas House Voting Fraud

Not that anyone in the Legislature probably cares, but a vote on the House floor yesterday should be cause for reflection by the legislators’ employers. A vote was “cast” by a legislator… who was in the hospital and unaware his vote was being exercised.

Going through the official House Journal for March 21, 2013, on page 933, we find Record Vote 89. The vote itself is less important than this “Statement of Vote” found in the Journal.


Rene Oliveira
“When Record No. 89 was taken, I was at Brackenridge Hospital recovering from a car accident. I had requested to be excused for illness before the vote was taken, but the excuse failed to be read out.”

The statement was placed by Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville), who was in a car accident that morning and taken to Brackenridge Hospital. Sure enough, looking at Record Vote 89, it shows Mr. Oliveira voting.

Since he clearly wasn’t present, how could that be?

House Rules state that a “member must be on the floor of the house or in an adjacent room or hallway on the same level as the house floor, in order to vote.”

Clearly the House members know not to trust each other. The House Rules provide that the clerk must “lock the voting machine of each member who is excused or who is otherwise known to be absent.” Note the two qualifications: “excused” or “known to be absent.”

No honor among legislators, eh?

Indeed, any legislator “found guilty by the house of knowingly voting for another member on the voting machine without that other member’s permission shall be subject to discipline deemed appropriate by the house.”

While House members are allowed to authorize a colleague to vote for them, it is clear from Mr. Oliveira’s statement that he made no such request. His car accident was well publicized – with Twitter alight with concern for his well-being. And, again: He Was Not There!

It seems that since the official statement of absence had not been “read out” from the chair, his colleagues saw using his vote as fair-game. More than just a little distasteful.

We’ll probably never know who voted in Mr. Oliveira’s place. But perhaps we should care a great deal that such voter fraud is taking place in the chamber of the Texas House.

[Cover image: Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman.]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael is president and CEO of Empower Texans. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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