Trump’s anti-voter fraud crusade revives issue in Texas

by Bobby Blanchard and Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

January 25, 2017

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

A familiar debate visited Texas on Wednesday after Donald Trump called for a probe of voter fraud in the presidential election: Is it really a problem here?

“Voter fraud is real,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in an interview on Fox News. “It must be stopped. We need every tool to go after it.”

Asked how prevalent voter fraud is in Texas, Abbott noted he “prosecuted about 50 voter fraud cases” as attorney general. “But that said, I want to make clear I have no information or data about what happened in the most recent presidential election,” Abbott added.

Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that he would call for a “major investigation” into voter fraud and that depending on the results, he might “strengthen up voting procedures.” While meeting with congressional leaders earlier this week, Trump said without evidence that millions of illegal votes cost him the election.

Several news organizations called Trump’s claim an outright lie.

In Texas, election complaints are filed with the secretary of state’s office, which reviews the complaints and decides whether to refer them to the attorney general’s office. The attorney general’s office has the power to investigate the complaints.

Attorney General Ken Paxton, speaking Wednesday with reporters in Austin, said his office remains “constantly involved” with voter fraud issues. But he noted he has not gotten any referrals yet from the secretary of state’s office regarding voter fraud in the Nov. 8 election.

Secretary of State Rolando Pablos said Wednesday he is confident in the state’s election system.

“We have multiple layers of safeguards in place to prevent illegal voting and remain constantly vigilant to guarantee that the voices of Texans at the ballot box are not muted by those who attempt to engage in abuse or fraud within our election system,” Pablos said in a statement. “In the State of Texas, we have taken and will continue to take all allegations of illegal voting very seriously.”

This isn’t the first time Trump has made that unsupported claim. In November, Trump said on Twitter that “in addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

A former Texas official may be the original source for that claim. Gregg Phillips, a former Health and Human Services Commission executive, said on Twitter that he has discovered that more than 3 million people who voted were not citizens.

Phillips’ claim was later highlighted in InfoWars, a conspiracy theory website run by Alex Jones, a Trump ally.

Abbott said Trump is not the first president to probe voter fraud, pointing to a task force under President Barack Obama that sought to root out corruption in South Texas.

But Obama’s efforts did not focus on the type of voter fraud that Texas Republican leaders have expressed concern about, where someone who should not be eligible to vote is able to do so by impersonating another. Instead, the South Texas task force has targeted elections in which campaign workers bribe people to vote a certain way, or manipulate mail-in ballots.

Read more on voter fraud here:

Only 15 voter fraud cases have been prosecuted by the attorney general’s office between the 2012 primary election and July. None of the cases involved voter impersonation.

Even though they’ve won pretty much every statewide office for years, some Texas Republicans routinely complain about voter fraud, and Gov. Greg Abbott has called it “rampant.” The Obama administration argued earlier this month that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated when they passed a strict voter ID law in 2011.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at