A county commissioner, his wife, and two others were arrested this week on voter fraud charges in Texas.
Gregg County Commissioner Shannon Brown, Marlena Jackson, Charlie Burns, and DeWayne Ward are accused of being part of an organized vote harvesting scheme during the 2018 Democratic primary, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, announced.
The group 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, officials said.
“It is an unfortunate reality that elections can be stolen outright by mail ballot fraud. Election fraud, particularly an organized mail ballot fraud scheme orchestrated by political operatives, is an affront to democracy and results in voter disenfranchisement and corruption at the highest level,” Paxton said in a statement.
“Mail ballots are vulnerable to diversion, coercion, and influence by organized vote harvesting schemes. This case demonstrates my commitment to ensuring Texas has the most secure elections in the country, and I thank the Gregg County Sheriff and District Attorney for their continued partnership. Those who try to manipulate the outcome of elections in Texas must be held accountable.”
A grand jury returned 23 felony counts against Brown, a Democrat, 97 counts against his wife Jackson, and a combined 14 counts against the two others, according to indictments obtained by The Epoch Times. Counts include illegal voting, fraudulent use of mail ballot applications, and unlawful possession of ballots. If convicted, defendants face jail time, some up to 99 years.
Brown’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment. The other defendants couldn’t be reached.
Brown won the 2018 primary election by just five votes over his challenger, former Longview City Councilwoman Kasha Williams, out of 2,089 cast.
Brown rode nearly 500 absentee ballots to the win. Williams received less than 200.
The investigation was triggered by a complaint filed in 2018 by Rev. D.J. Nelson. A message left at Nelson’s church wasn’t returned Friday.
“In the state, 9 percent of the ballots cast were absentee,” Nelson told KETK shortly after filing the complaint. “So 9 percent statewide, but in Gregg County it was 32 percent.”
Gregg County Elections Administrator Kathryn Nealy told the Longview News-Journal later that year that mail-in ballots in precinct four were being looked at for a long time.
“They use this same group of people every election, because they get paid for it,” she said. “I can’t repeat the names, but there is an organized group out there who thinks that this is their job.”
Nealy declined to comment when reached by The Epoch Times.
State Sen. Bryan Hughes and state Rep. Jay Dean, both Republicans, said in a statement that the indictments followed a months-long investigation.
“Voting by mail is an important tool for our over-65 and disabled citizens,” Hughes said in a statement. “Mail-in ballots are also most vulnerable to cheating and fraud. We must protect Texas election integrity, and we will.”
Dean added, “The alleged account of voter fraud appears so clearly to be a problem in our districts, but we are encouraged by the attention it has brought to the issue, both here and statewide, and by the opportunity to fix this problem.”
Gregg County, which has 71,729 registered voters, sits in east Texas near the border with Louisiana.
The indictments come amid concerns about fraud in what will be an unprecedented utilization of mail-in voting in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Also this month, Paxton successfully petitioned the state Supreme Court to stop Harris County officials from sending over two million mail-in ballot applications, alleging the effort “would create voter confusion and jeopardize the integrity and security of our elections.”