(Headline USA) An East Texas county commissioner and three other people have been indicted on charges that they fraudulently solicited mail-in votes from able-bodied voters by claiming they were disabled, often without the voters’ knowledge or consent.
Gregg County Commissioner Shannon Brown and three paid workers of Brown’s 2018 Democratic primary campaign — Marlena Jackson, Charlie Burns, and DeWayne Ward — were charged in a 35-page, 134-count indictment returned last week with multiple counts of election-related fraud and record tampering.
Brown was charged with 23 felonies; Jackson with 97 felonies; Burns with eight felonies; and Ward with six felonies, The Longview News-Journal reported.
The case arises from the Precinct 4 commissioner’s primary race between Brown and his opponent, Kasha Williams, a race that drew more than 2,000 votes.
According to the Gregg County District Attorney Tom Watson, more than 360 mail-in ballots were requested claiming voter disability.
By comparison, fewer than 15 mail-in ballots were requested for the Precincts 1, 2, and 3 commissioners’ races combined due to voter disability.
In live voting, Williams led Brown by more than 20 percentage points. However, 74% of the mail-in ballots were for Brown and gave him a four-vote victory.
In a statement, the Texas Attorney General’s Office said Brown’s group, to increase the pool of ballots needed to swing the race in Brown’s favor, targeted 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.
Penalties for the various violations range from up to 99 years in prison for first-degree felony engaging in organized election fraud alleged against Brown, Jackson and Ward to up to two years in state jail for election fraud and records tampering counts faced by the four.
All four defendants have been released on $25,000 bond each.
Court records listed no attorneys for the four on Saturday. Brown has no published telephone number and could not be reached for comment, and telephone numbers for the other three were not accepting calls.
The prosecution comes amid an ongoing effort by Republicans, in Texas and the nation, to explain that voting-by-mail is vulnerable to fraud.
Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton has been waging ongoing court battles to limit voting by mail, and President Donald Trump has tried to increase skepticism of low-integrity mail-in voting.
Trump has warned that mail voting could lead to so many people voting that “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.