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It’s Time to Worry About Houston UPDATED

Voter fraud and a suspicious fire threaten the November elections in Texas’ largest city. (Author Bryan Preston joins the PJM and PJTV staffs today.)

by
Bryan Preston

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September 7, 2010 - 11:18 am
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I could’ve gone with the “Houston, we have a problem” headline but that’s so … cliché. Nevertheless, the fact is that Houston has a major election problem, one which threatens the integrity of elections in Houston and across the Lone Star State. And when you work in the fact that Texas stands as the nation’s largest solidly Republican state, well, what happens in Houston will not stay in Houston — with next year’s redistricting, it won’t even stay in Texas.

The problem centers on a massive voter registration problem in Houston, and the suspect fire that followed closely once the registration problem became public. On Tuesday, August 24, Harris County’s tax assessor-collector, Leo Vasquez, held a press conference in which he detailed what he called systematic and organized voter registration fraud across the county. Texas Watchdog reported on Vasquez’s presser that day. Vasquez accused two nominally nonpartisan groups, the Texans Together Education Fund and its elections arm, Houston Votes, of engaging in massive voter registration fraud that put as many as 25,000 fraudulent registrations on the county’s roll. Vasquez offered substantial evidence to back up his claim, and likened the groups to ACORN.

That accusation isn’t without some foundation: ACORN was so active in Houston prior to the stings that discredited it, that it had its own state representative from the Houston area in Kristi Thibaut. Elected in the 2008 Obama wave to represent Texas House District 133, Thibaut was recently outed for her work as a lobbyist for ACORN in the 2007 legislative session (full disclosure — as communications director of the Republican Party of Texas when Thibaut was outed, I played a central role in exposing her ACORN past). As for the group’s “nonpartisan” veneer, well, blogHouston exposed the left-wing nature of their entire leadership. For a nonpartisan group, it lists heavily to the left. And by the way, the SEIU purple-shirt union is involved too, in the person of Houston Votes’ director, Sean Caddle.

Mr. Vasquez is a Republican, so the Democrats’ response to his accusations was to accuse him of suppressing the minority vote in Harris County. That’s their standard line whenever anyone looks into enforcing ballot integrity of any kind anywhere in America, so no surprise there. The two groups, Houston Votes and Texans Together Education Fund, denied any wrongdoing, also to no one’s surprise.

What happened next is what threatens everything. In the overnight/early morning hours of Saturday, August 28, a warehouse in Houston burned down. Within the warehouse were all of Harris County’s 10,000 voting machines. They were a total loss. That they were insured doesn’t change the fact that they’re gone, and the county has been scrambling ever since to replace them.  Working with the state government and other counties, Harris County is moving swiftly to replace the destroyed machines and has pledged that none of the Nov. 2 polling places will close because of the fire.

That’s not good enough for the Democrats. Rather than pull together and work with the county and the state to support the Apollo-level effort to maintain the vote, the Texas Democratic Party, controlled by a Washington activist, is suing Vasquez. But even more dangerous, the Democrats have used the occasion to call for the Justice Department to step in and “monitor” Harris County’s elections.

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