Former Dem Leader in Texas Implicated in Organized Voter Fraud Ring, AG Says
A former Democratic Party leader in Texas funded an "organized voter fraud ring” in Fort Worth with money he received from campaigns, state officials claim.
Earlier this month, four women were arrested and indicted on nearly thirty felony counts of voter fraud: Leticia Sanchez; her daughter, Leticia Sanchez Tepichin; Rosa Solis; and Laura Parra.
The state’s notice of intent in Leticia Sanchez’s criminal case states that "Sanchez engaged in organized criminal activity in collaboration with her three co-defendants" and Stuart Clegg, the former executive director for the Tarrant County Democratic Party.
After learning about the state investigation into her “vote harvesting group,” the elder Sanchez had her daughter send text messages to the others involved in the scheme, advising them not to cooperate with investigators, according to the notice.
One message, translated from Spanish, stated: “Hello, there is a group of malicious people investigating our work. We have been told by our boss, Mr. Stuart, that we should not give any information. Just give them the phone number of the lawyer who is in charge of this matter. If anyone has contacted you, asked any type of questions, please tell us immediately so we can let the lawyer know. Notify immediately.”
“I would tell anybody it’s a good idea, before you talk to investigators, to make sure you talk to an attorney,” Clegg told the Star-Telegram. “Isn’t that just general sense?”
State officials say Sanchez collaborated with others to use residents’ mail-in ballots to vote for certain down-ballot candidates during the 2016 Democratic primary.
According to the notice, Sanchez distributed payments “from funds received from Stuart Clegg” to more than four women for “activities” such as “fraudulent altering (mail-in) applications and submitting them again by fax.”
“There was no conspiracy to defraud any election,” Clegg told the Star-Telegram last week. He claimed that while a consultant he had hired canvassers over the years to “work legally in Texas elections,” and insisted that his workers were trained to follow the law.
Reportedly, Clegg received money from campaigns and used it to pay the workers.
“We’ve trained them to follow the law and instruct them as best as we can but, like anything, we’re not with the actual worker the whole time,” he said. “I don’t believe the allegations the attorney general is making.
“I know Leticia. I know that she’s a woman of fine character and I have no reason to believe that she would do anything illegal,” Clegg said. “Obviously, if I thought she was going to do anything illegal, I wouldn’t have hired her and I don’t believe that she did,” he added. “I would turn them in myself if I thought that (accusations of vote harvesting) was true.”
According to the allegations, "Sanchez faxed applications for mail-in ballots — many obtained fraudulently — using a fax machine belonging to former Fort Worth councilman Sal Espino." The notice does not implicate Espino as one of the collaborators.
Local Democrats say canvassing voters occurs every election cycle. Attorneys for Sanchez say they believe this case is politically motivated and they expect it to eventually be dismissed.
Officials allege the women were paid to target older voters on the city’s north side “in a scheme to generate a large number of mail ballots and then harvest those ballots for specific candidates in 2016.”
The notice did not specify which candidates the suspects were allegedly paid to support, but it noted that Sanchez and others marked down-ballot candidates “without the voter’s knowledge or consent.”
The notice states that Sanchez obtained or directed others to obtain signatures from elderly voters under false pretenses and/or intimidation, caused innocent or non-responsible third parties to forge signatures of incapacitated or absent voters and forged signatures on mail-in ballot applications.
It alleges she also maintained a file of 2015 applications, many of them obtained fraudulently, which she then altered and submitted again by fax in 2016, “generating fraudulent mail ballots that the voter did not request.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has charged "a record number of people with committing voter fraud," NPR reported.
In 2018 alone, Paxton's office has prosecuted "33 defendants for a total of 97 election fraud violations," compared with a total of 97 prosecutions on similar charges for the 12-year period between 2005 and 2017, according to a release this month from Paxton's office.
Clegg downplayed the voter harvesting allegations against his group, saying “when Republicans do it, it’s campaigning. When Democrats do it, it’s harvesting. At the end of the day, what we’re talking about is helping people who want to vote to go vote legally. How is that harvesting?”