Ken Paxton

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Project Votes Challenge to Texas Election Integrity Laws

AUSTIN Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected Project Vote’s challenge to the election-integrity measures passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by the Texas Legislature in 2011. The Texas Attorney General's office released the following statement from Lauren Bean, spokeswoman for the Texas Attorney General’s Office:

The Attorney General’s Office is pleased that the courts have once again reaffirmed the Texas Legislature’s ability to adopt common-sense election laws that are designed to instill confidence in our electoral process and prevent election fraud. Decisions like this one are reminders that these cases are nothing more than political stunts that are brought by plaintiffswho simply oppose election integrity on political groundsand their lawyers, who seek to reap attorneys’ fees at the taxpayers’ expense.

Excerpts from the court's opinion:

"The Non-Resident and County provisions do not in any way restrict or regulate who can advocate pro-voter-registration messages, the manner in which they may do so, or any communicative conduct. They merely regulate the receipt and delivery of completed voter-registration applications, two non-expressive activities."

"As the Supreme Court has recognized, the risk posed by fraud during the electoral process is far greater than that in either the initiative or candidate petition process. Meyer, 486 U.S. at 427, 108 S. Ct. at 1895 (the risk of fraud or corruption, or the appearance thereof, is more remote at the petition stage of an initiative than at the time of balloting) (citing First Nat’l Bank v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 790, 98 S. Ct. 1407, 1423 (1978) (the risk of corruption perceived in cases involving candidate elections . . . simply is not present in a popular vote on a public issue.)). Indeed, Steen points to documented evidence of voter registration fraud committed by canvassers, including those who worked for Appellee Project Vote and its former affiliate ACORN. See, e.g., League of Women Voters of Fla., 575 F. Supp. 2d at 1310 (noting that the State of Florida received 13 written complaints in 2004 from persons who registered to vote with third-party organizations but who [a]t the time of voting . . . were advised they were not registered to vote because the forms they had filled out had never been turned in.); Staff of the H. Comm. on Oversight & Gov’t Reform, 111th Cong., Follow the Money: ACORN, SEIU, and their Political Allies 49 (2010)[hereinafter Follow the Money] (noting that a Project Vote employee was convicted . . . for submitting more than 400 fake voter registration applications.); Staff of the H. Comm. on Oversight & Gov’t Reform, 111th Cong., Is ACORN Internationally Structured as a Criminal Enterprise? 4 (2009) ([N]early 70 ACORN employees have been convicted in 12 states for voter registration fraud).

"The district court faulted Steen for not producing evidence of rampant fraud by out-of-state VDRs in pre-2011 Texas elections. Andrade I, 888 F.Supp.2d at 845. In Crawford, however, the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter ID law under the Anderson/Burdick test despite the fact that were was no evidence of any [impersonation] fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history. Crawford, 553 U.S. at 196, 128 S. Ct. at 1619. Here, as in Crawford, Texas need not show specific local evidence of fraud in order to justify preventive measures. See also Munro v. Socialist Workers Party, 479 U.S. 189, 19596, 107 S. Ct. 533, 53738 (1986) (Legislatures . . . should be permitted to respond to potential deficiencies in the electoral process with foresight rather than reactively . . . .)."