Rent-a-Voter: Election Fraud Legal in Texas

When a developer in Texas wants to avoid the cost of doing business they simply hire a company to provide voters to ‘pass’ the cost onto future residents.

Voter fraud and election fraud isn’t just one thing. It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. By definition, however, all types of voter fraud come with an intent to corrupt the election process. In this particular situation, it involves developers paying a company, Stingray Services, to provide voters-on-demand to vote for the creation of Municipal Utilities Districts (MUDs) before any residents actually live there, as well as, voting for various Government bonds (debt) that all work in the financial favor of the developers. This Government debt is then passed on to future residents.

Now creating new neighborhoods and the zoning and elections process that go along with that is complicated. So lets start by looking at what the process usually looks like.

Developers Building New Neighborhoods

What Most Developers Do

When a developer wants to build a new neighborhood, there is a lot of upfront expenses for expanding infrastructure like roads, utility lines, and potentially (but not typically) school buildings, public parks, and pools. The rules are slightly different depending on which state, county, or city the development is happening in, but there are a variety of ways developers go about handling these costs:

  • Many developers simply front the cost (or get investors to) and build it into their home prices. When this is done, the developer will seek ways to keep these costs lower and they spend a little more time in planning and seeking out potential home buyers. Essentially, the developer is taking extra financial risk and therefore will ensure that the risk is cost effective and likely to pay off.
  • Developers can also seek the support of current residents in the surrounding area to expand infrastructure and the neighborhood. For example, a developer might encourage them to see the benefit of having improved roads and a larger community. If the developer is successful, then those residents can form a Council (or they may already have one) who can then vote in an election for property tax increases to offset the developers costs and/or to expand of the city borders to incorporate this new development and its infrastructure costs.
  • States and Cities sometimes offer funds to assist with expanding infrastructure for new community development, but again, this involves gaining support from the residents and local Government that already exists and usually involves them participating in an election.

Using these kinds of processes is important and ensures that development does not turn into sprawl, which can have a devastating impact on the environment. It also helps prevent unnecessary or unwanted excess Government (tax-payer funded) spending on development.

What Shady Texas Developers Do

Some developers in Texas have found an election loophole that allows them to bypass the investment costs of developing infrastructure without having to seek the support of current local residents in the surrounding area. Here’s what they are doing:

  • Proposing the creation of new Municipal Utilities Districts (MUDs) through legislation that specifically avoids encompassing any nearby property owners.
  • Since the MUD can’t be formed without an election and you can’t have an election without residents, they pay Stingray Services, who offers “turn-key voter trailer installation services, and election services.”
  • Stingray Services then places a mobile home within the boundaries of the proposed district and find a temporary tenant.
  • That temporary tenant is given low rent in exchange for living in the home and voting in the election and passing the MUD creating legislation, as well as, legislation approving the Government bonds (debt) paid to the developer and the property taxes for future residents.
  • After the election the tenants move out.

MUDs were initially intended to focus on ensuring waste and potable water management, as well as, water shed protection along shorelines and providing smaller communities with funding for fire and emergency services. However, it has since then morphed into an entity for wasteful spending, growing at an alarming rate (much faster than the population or inflation). At this point, this process is leaving the decisions regarding billions of dollars of Government spending in the hands of only 1 or 2 individuals who don’t intend to live in the area long-term. It favors shady developers willing to pay for rigged elections in order to usurp the normal legal processes for developing new communities. In addition, current residents of these areas are left out-of-the-loop on important decisions happening right next door.

Rent-a-Voter? Is That Legal?

As mentioned in the abc13 news video above, apparently this type of election fraud is legal in Texas. Stingray Services is so confident in the legality of their services that they don’t even try to hide what they are doing. They even proudly list off the corrupt developers who have used their services “including Lennar, Toll Brothers, Friendswood, Land Tejas, Taylor Morrison, Pate Engineers, Brown & Gay.”

Stingray Services Temporary Building Permit specifically stating the purpose is for voting.
Stingray Services Temporary Building Permit specifically stating the purpose is for voting.

At this point, the powers that be in Texas seem unwilling to call this for what it so obviously is: vote buying and electorate manipulation. When asked about this case the Secretary of State stated, “it is up to the voter to determine their place of residency for voting.”

This seems odd considering the Woodlands RUD case we covered in June, where several concerned civic-minded citizens were charged and convicted of Voter Fraud after changing their residence to vote in another utilities district (a Roads Utilities District) election in Texas. One of those convictions has since been overturned in a higher court and three others are still awaiting their appeals.

Editorial Remarks

This case, like the Woodlands RUD case from Texas, has left me with more questions than answers. The voter bribery and election corruption is so obvious that I am finding it difficult to understand how it has been allowed to continue. Elected officials in Texas vilified civic minded activists who used the same voter residence logic trying to stop utilities district corruption are now using it to legitimize utilities district election corruption in another.

Secretary of State stated, “it is up to the voter to determine their place of residency for voting.”

Is the Secretary of State willing to speak those same words to the Jury at Jim Jenkins’ retrial? Or to the Judge deciding the validity of Adrian Heath’s Appeal? Or the two others involved whose cases are also waiting appeal?

Last question: When is Texas going to put a stop to the fraudulent utilities district elections and the Government spending madness?

Voting in Alabama Just Got Harder

Alabama has announced they will be closing DMVs across the state despite the Voter-ID Law that took affect in 2014. The State plans to close all, but 4 DMVs by March 2015.

Alabama’s Voter-ID Law

Alabama’s Voter-ID laws went into effect on June 13th, 2014. They require Alabama voters to show a valid government issued photo ID at the polls or to mail a copy with an absentee ballot. The first Alabama election following the law’s implementation had the lowest voter turnout in decades, but was still hailed as a success by the laws supporters simply because not enough people showed up to the polls and complained.

In Alabama (and else where), these laws already disproportionately affect:

  • The Poor- less likely to have a government issued ID,  less likely to have the financial and travel resources to get one, and less likely to have needed documents to apply for one.
  • Minorities- minorities are disproportionately living in poverty everywhere in the US, but it’s an even bigger disparity in the South.
  • Woman- more likely to have last names change (making their IDs invalid for voting) and more likely to live in poverty.
  • The Elderly- more likely to be poor, less likely to have a drivers license, less likely to be able to travel to get one, less likely to have needed documents to obtain one.
  • Young Adults- Less likely to have driver’s license and less likely to have the financial and travel resources to obtain one.

The DMV closures will make it that much more difficult for these demographics to obtain a valid ID which is required to vote in-person or absentee. This is especially true in Alabama’s Black Belt communities which is home to many of our nations poorest counties and statistically more likely to resemble third world nation more than a modern industrialized one.

Alabama’s DMV Closures

The first wave of DMV closures will leave 28 Alabama counties with out a place to get a State ID or Drivers License. They plan to close all, but 4 DMVs by March, 2015.  This would leave 40,000 (average number of Alabamians who use DMVs every year) driving longer distances and potentially experiencing longer wait times. License renewals can be completed online, but families in Alabama’s poor and rural counties have some of the lowest rates of internet or broadband access in the nation.

State officials site budget shortfalls for the DMV closures. In light of the Voter ID laws and the location of the counties that will be without DMVs, it is hard not to conclude that Alabama intends too make it very difficult for poor African Americans to vote.

Less Populated = More Closures

Alabama maps - DMV vs PopulationIt is easy to argue that these cuts are not racially motivated. As most of the counties losing DMVs in this first wave of closures are rural. However, making it harder for these communities to get an ID that is required to vote, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Even rural living individuals who currently have a valid-ID will find it more difficult to renew once it expires than those who live in more populated areas. This is because they are less likely to have internet or broadband access.

Highest Poverty Rates = More Closures

Alabama maps - DMV vs Poverty
It also, just so happens that these same counties have the highest Poverty Rates.

More Democratic Leaning = More Closures

Alabama maps - DMV vs Congressional districts
Congressional District 7 (Alabama’s only Democratic district in the last election) will see more than half of its Counties without DMVs.

Higher African American Population = More Closures

This is perhaps the most telling map overlay. In the first maps above (population), it appeared that perhaps there was some attempt to ensure that not every county in a particular region was without DMVs because of the way they spotted across some rural expanses. Unfortunately, this appears to just single out counties where the highest percentage of the population is African American. Seven out of eight counties where 65% (and greater) of the population is African American will be left without DMVs. In counties where the majority of the population is white, less than half of the counties will be without DMVs.

Electronic Voter Fraud: Cause for Concern?

A university statistician believes she has found patterns of anomalies in the elections in Kansas. She suspects electronic voter fraud and has requested to review the vote machine’s paper tape (record).

Beth Clarkson, of Wichita State’s National Institute for Aviation Research has sued the state of Kansas for the opportunity to review the voter tape of Sedgwick County to ensure that it is consistent with the election results from the last several elections. The voter tape records every key stroke that voters make on the machines. If they are inconsistent with the reported election results, it would point to electronic voter fraud and vote manipulation. Oddly Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, self-proclaimed as being tough on voter fraud, has asked the Judge to deny her request. The same Kris Kobach who was so intent on ending voter fraud he pushed for legislation giving him the power to prosecute voter fraud and says he will begin to do so sometime this month (September), is now asking a Judge to stop an independent investigation into suspected voter fraud.

Clarkson is also asserting that this pattern is seen not just in Kansas, but throughout the nation. Unfortunately, not every electronic voting machine has a voter tape record. Many actually have no paper trail at all.

Electronic Voter Fraud

Electronic Voter Fraud is primarily viewed as manipulating the software, the results, or interfering with the voting machines. It is also reasonable to include election officials who certify results from elections when there is evidence of machine malfunctions.

Reports of machine malfunction and fraud is not new or isolated:

Neither are the reports that electronic voting machines are easy to hack:

Given these facts, it seems unreasonable for anyone to want to keep a well respected statistician with a Doctorate degree from investigating the possibility of rigged or manipulated electronic votes. Voters have a right to be concerned that their vote is being counted and counted correctly.

It also bring other questions to mind: Should we be using electronic voting machines? Can we find a way to make the process more secure?

Ensuring all machines have voter tape to verify would likely help, but what does the voter tape record when the machine doesn’t read the key stroke correctly (like in the video above)?

Voter-ID Affects Less Than 1% of Fraud

This recent report from the Heritage Foundation compiles a list of 275 instances of voter fraud. Only 6 crimes would have been stopped by Voter-ID.

This report was presented as evidence for the need for Voter-ID laws in an article for the Daily Signal, “Nearly 300 Cases, the Extent of Voter Fraud in America.” When taking a closer look at the actual data contained within this report, its hard not to notice that the evidence does not support Voter-ID laws as a solution.

The Data

While the report did contain a lot of relevant information about these 275 instances of voter fraud, it does a poor job of presenting it in a clear and coherent way for critically thinking about these issues. If we, as a country, are going to have any meaningful conversation about voter fraud and how to actually prevent it, we MUST take a long hard look at the data. It is not enough to just list off instances without analyzing the details. In this way, the Daily Signal’s article failed to offer the kind of depth required for any real conclusions to be made.

The Most Obvious Data-

  • 275 different instances of voter fraud were included
  • 297 different voter fraud related convictions or evidence of voter fraud
    (22 instances included more than one type of conviction)
  • 2 of these instances did not involve a person being charge, but an investigation was completed and a new election was ordered as a result
  • 2 of these instances was purely investigatory and did not involve charges, a recount, or a holding a new election

Less Obvious Data-

  • 573 different individuals were convicted of 609 different voter fraud related charges (many cases involved more than one person)
  • 1 instance involved 37 different individuals
  • 1 instance involved 63 different individuals

Break Down by Type of Voter Fraud Conviction

191 convictions for False Registrations-

False Registration cases involved everything from putting a false address to vote in a specific election, to intentionally registering in more than one state or district, to registering as multiple different people (identity theft). The bulk of these cases involved eligible voters intentionally registering and voting in more than one state or lying about their place of residence to vote in a particular election. Those that involved registering as multiple people also involved the use of absentee ballots.

  • 55 of these convictions were for registering to vote in a district they did not live in.
  • 11 more convictions were registered at the wrong address in order to run for office in a particular district. This included a Mayor in California who was mayor for 50 years before caught.
  • 51 of these convictions were for registering as multiple people (no information provided about the use of absentee ballots or not). However, most were registration drive employees registering people multiple times, deceased individuals, or persons known to be ineligible to vote in order to boost their registration numbers. Employees of these kind of drives often get bonuses for high registration numbers or have quota’s to meet; it is unclear whether they actually intended to cast fraudulent votes during an election.
  • 63 individuals registered and cast absentee ballots for elderly and disabled people.
  • 3 individuals in California convinced more than 100 people to sign a petition “to fight breast cancer” when they were actually changing their registered party affiliation to Republican. While disturbing and illegal, a person’s party affiliation does not affect their ballots in any way.
  • 1 other individual was also convicted for attempting to change party affiliation of 280 voters.
  • 2 individuals were convicted for registering as someone else, but also had fake ID’s to match. In fact, DMV’s facial recognition software was the reason one was caught.
  • 2 falsely registered and did use absentee ballots.
  • 3 individuals were convicted because they changed their address the day they voted in a new district in Ohio. Ohio requires you be a resident for 30 days before voting.
  • 1 individual living and voting under a false identity was caught due to Voter-ID laws.

Voter-ID laws only deter False Registration cases in so far as the individuals registered as someone other than themselves, went in-person to cast the vote, and did not have a fake ID to match. This was only known to be the case in 1 out of 191 convictions for false registration. However, many of these would have been impossible with a single digital record of all registered voters which could identify duplicate registrations, characters from movies, and easily checked against death records.

156 convictions for Buying Votes

Vote buying involves a person paying someone to vote a certain way, but in many of these cases it also involved buying absentee ballots.

Voter-ID laws do not prevent the buying of votes and, ultimately, this is a type of fraud that would be difficult to hinder except through harsh sentencing.

136 convictions for Absentee Ballot Fraud

Absentee Ballot Fraud typically involves forging someone’s absentee ballot. These cases involved forging absentee ballots, stealing them, and registering as someone else (sometimes deceased people). Two of the convictions for Impersonation Fraud at the Polls (listed below) actually involved absentee ballots, so that puts the total for Absentee Ballot related fraud at 138.

Voter-ID laws have zero impact on absentee ballot fraud. Oddly, there have been no suggestions from politicians on how to reduce the instances of fraudulent absentee ballots and most want to expand the use of absentee ballots. Currently, most states use signature verification to check against the signatures on the voters’ registrations, but this is only effective in cases where individuals did not also forge the signature on the registration.

43 convictions for Ineligible Voting

Ineligible Voting involves casting a vote when you are not actually eligible to vote. The bulk of these cases involved disenfranchised felons voting when they were not eligible. Felon voting eligibility differs from state to state and it can get confusing, but to get convicted in this kind of case, evidence must be given that the individual knowingly broke the law. Some of these convictions involved non-citizens voting.

  • 26 of these were felons in states where they were not eligible to vote.
  • 6 were non-citizens who voted: 1 was the youngest delegate at the 2000 Republican National Convention, 1 voted before gaining citizenship (was caught after gaining citizenship), and 1 used an absentee ballot.
  • 2 were non-citizens living under false identities and presumably had false ID’s to match.
  • 1 was a city election official convicted for “fraudulent receipt of ballot” and misconduct.
  • 1 was convicted for interfering another voter while he/she was voting.
  • 1 was a mother who convinced one of her sons to vote for another incarcerate son. she was also convicted of Impersonation at the Polls.
  • 8 cases did not provide any details other than their convictions.

Voter-ID laws would not affect the cases involving felons voting when ineligible because they were registered to vote. It also would not have

36 convictions of Ballot Petition Fraud

Ballot Petition Fraud involved forging signatures on petitions when trying to get initiatives on a ballot. It is illegal, but these initiatives would still have to pass the voters to become law.

Voter-ID laws do not stop people from forging signatures in order to get initiatives onto the ballot.

30 convictions for Duplicate Voting

  • 7 of these made use of absentee ballots to cast multiple votes.
  • 5 voted both in-person and with absentee ballots.
  • 2 were convicted of duplicate voting in elections in which they were candidates.
  • 4 voted in more than one state, but no details were given as to whether this was in-person or absentee. They were all registered to vote in both locations though.
  • 4 others registered and voted in more than one state in-person.
  • 2 registered and voted in more than one county.
  • 4 tried to cast 2 votes in-person in a single election including a homeless man who registered and voted under the same alias 2x.
  • Only 2 of these convictions was for voting under someone else’s identity and no details were provided as to whether this was done in-person or via absentee ballots.

Voter -ID laws do not affect the majority of these cases. All except 2 individuals in these cases voted under their own identity. Those 2 cases did not provide information about whether absentee ballots were used or not.

7 convictions for Impersonation Fraud at the Polls

In-person impersonation fraud is the only type of voter fraud which the Voter-ID laws are capable of affecting. It involves an individual actually going to a polling station and voting under someone else’s identity.

  • 5 of these convictions actually involved someone going to the polls in-person and one of those cases turned himself in, claiming he only did it to prove a point.
  • 2 other convictions were both elderly widows who cast their deceased spouse’s absentee ballots.

Only 5 of these crimes would have been stopped by Voter-ID laws.

Misc. Voter Fraud

There were 10 other convictions in this report that covered a variety of crimes. Unfortunately, the majority were committed by election officials and poll workers.

  • 2 convictions election officials convicted of Neglect/Misconduct (2 different cases)
  • 2 convictions for Altering the Vote Count by election officials (2 different cases)
  • 2 convictions of Unauthorized Access, neither a poll worker or election official. 1 of these individuals was originally charged with Buying Votes, but he plead down.
  • 1 convicted for Voter Intimidation, also not a poll worker or election official.
  • 1 conviction for Attempting to Influence the Vote by a Republican campaign manager.
  • 1 conviction for Bribery by a County Judge.
  • 1 conviction of a poll worker casting Fraudulent Ballots.

Voter-ID laws would not have affected any of these cases. Seven of these cases involved people who have power and authority in the election process.

Editorial Conclusion

The sheer number (609) of voter fraud related crimes is a bit disheartening and it is important to have meaningful discussions about how to deter these kinds of crimes from happening. It is also important to take into consideration the millions upon millions of votes cast during this time frame. While voter fraud is real, the fact is that it is relatively uncommon. In addition, all of these crimes were caught (except 1) because of the security measures that were already in place before Voter-ID laws became a thing. To a certain extent, this should offer some peace of mind.

After reviewing all 275 instances of voter fraud within this report. Only 6 of these crimes would have been prevented under Voter-ID laws. That represents less than 1% of these crimes, but these same laws disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters. At the same time 138 convictions were related to Absentee Ballots, or 23%, and no politicians have put forth any legislation to address it. The largest crime represented in this report was False Registration comprising 31% of the convictions, but this is another area which is difficult to legislate away without disenfranchising law-abiding voters, but he development of electronic voter registration rolls would help. I am not suggesting that we should ignore voter fraud and hope that it goes away, but I am suggesting that we approach it in a rational way. Blindly supporting legislation which disenfranchises thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of elderly, poor, and young voters and does almost nothing to deter actual voter fraud is not a rational approach.

Texas Voter ID Law Struck Down

On Wednesday, Aug. 5th the 5th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals struck down major portions of the Texas Voter ID law for violating the Voting Rights Act.

While the ruling was a win for opponents to the Voter ID laws, the three judges unanimously disagreed with the lower courts assertion that it amounted to a “poll tax”. Instead, they simply recognized that the number of elderly, women, and poor (who are disproportionately minority) voters that are disenfranchised by the law is  an unacceptable sacrifice and amounts to discrimination.

Next, the Court will judge whether this was an intentional move on the part of the law-makers.

Facts About Those Disenfranchised by the Texas Voter ID Law

Texas Voters that Lack ID

Supporters of the law argue that it thwarts voter fraud. Unfortunately, the only kind of voter fraud that is affected by the law is in-person voter fraud. All types of voter fraud is rare, but in-person voter fraud is the rarest. This type of fraud is also the least likely to accomplish anything since it requires a person (or persons) to actually go to the voting polls and cast a vote impersonating another person.

Around 600,000 registered Texas voters don’t have one of the limited forms of ID that the law allows, according to evidence presented in the legal challenge to the law, which was brought by civil rights groups and the Justice Department… Texas has been able to point to just two fraudulent votes since 2000 that would have been prevented by the ID law. MSNBC

The law itself did not single out minority groups, the elderly, or the poor. The implications, however, disproportionately affected these groups.

  • Many elderly individuals lacked approved types of identification, lack the financial and other means to obtain such IDs, and some even lack the documents required: like a certified copy of their birth certificate (which costs money and, ironically, often requires a photo ID to get).
  • Traditionally, women change their last names with marriage and many change them back again in cases of divorce. If their lasts names don’t match their ID… Getting your name changed on your ID requires a certified copy of marriage or divorce from the courts. They cost money, it takes time, and many courts have limited hours of operation for their records services.
  • The largest group of individuals that lack the IDs required by the law are the poor. In texas the poor. They lack the financial means, the documentation, the transportation, and often the time. The working poor in rural communities would have a particular disadvantage: having to take time off work and/or travel to get paperwork.
  • As much as 36.9% of voters in Texas with Spanish-surnames lacked the approved types of ID.
  • As much as 17.9% of African American voters lacked the approved ID.

Editorial Notes

This is a big step forward in righting the wrong of these strict Voter ID laws. Many states still have these discriminatory types of Voter ID laws still in play, but hopefully this is a step forward. Greg Abbott has vowed to continue to beat this dead horse in Texas, but now has few avenues left for making it happen. Ultimately, these laws are ineffective at dealing with the majority of cases of actual voter fraud and the sooner their supporters stop wasting time defending them, the faster we can move forward towards legislation that empowers eligible voters to participate. Because voter fraud is actually extremely rare, better eligible voter turnout might be the best way to thwart it.

Arizona Gerrymandering Case, Supreme Court Sides with Voters

On June 29th, the Supreme Court side 5-4 with Arizona Voters in a landmark Gerrymandering case, paving the way for more voter-based initiatives to improve the elections processes nation wide.

Gerrymandering happens when a State legislature chooses to redistrict the state to give their own party an advantage in the next election. It only happens every 10 years because it is based on the census and both Democrats and Republicans have been guilty of it.

Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

In 2000, Arizona passed Proposition 106 which took the power to redistrict from the State legislature, delegating it instead to a bipartisan independent commission. The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is comprised of two democrats, two republicans, and one independent. In 2013, after the 2010 census, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, had its first opportunity to redraw Arizona’s districts.

Arizona’s District Map
Why this Ruling is Important?

The legality of the voter based proposition and the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was questioned based on the constitution, which affords the  power to create election laws and processes to the “legislature” and not to the voters.

At the time the constitution was written, there was no avenue for voters to create laws besides convincing their legislative representatives. Today, however, voter based initiatives are a fairly common way for voters to participate in the legislative process.

California also has an independent redistricting process which was also created through a voter based initiative. This ruling also places California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission on solid legal ground.

Most importantly, the Supreme Court legally recognized voters as a ‘legislature’ or law making body.  Primarily because the State’s provided legal ways for voters to sponsor initiatives and create laws. This is a notion that likely never occurred to our founding fathers, but which provides an extremely important additional form of check and balance. Voters have the right to make laws or eliminate them. Voters can create laws which actually act to decrease real voter fraud threats without disenfranchising the poor and elderly. Voters can say ‘no’ to Voter ID laws and ‘yes’ to ending districts without voters.

This ruling is empowering.

Woodlands Voter Fraud Conviction Overturned

James Alan Jenkins’s voter fraud conviction was overturned by the Texas 14th Court of Appeals due to the Jury not being instructed in mistake of law.

The Judge in the first trial refused to instruct the Jury that Jenkins had sought counsel from state officials in Texas and reasonably believed his actions were legal, including a key recorded phone call from a state official. The Judge also refused to instruct the Jury about the mistake of law defense. Three others were also convicted for voter fraud relating to this case and they are also appealing their convictions. This decision gives hope that the others will also be granted retrials.

The Facts About The Woodlands Voter Fraud Case

This may be by far the most confusing voter fraud case ever encountered. It involves a utilities district with very few registered voters because there are no residential zones in this district, the district has representatives that ran unopposed for 8 years, and when their positions are challenged arrests are made. Sounds a bit shady, so lets take a closer look.

The Woodlands, TX

"Montgomery County TheWoodlands" by 25or6to4 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
“Montgomery County TheWoodlands” by 25or6to4 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

The Woodlands, Tx is in Mongomery County and is 28 miles north of Houston with a population just over 100,000.

The Woodlands Road Utility District #1 (aka RUD)


  • The Woodlands RUD #1 was created in 1991 and given the responsibility to maintain the roads within the district and the authority to pass bonds to do so.
  • The commercial and industrial properties in The Woodlands RUD #1 are taxed 36 cents per $100 property value.
  • The Woodlands RUD #1 has $110 million in debt when you combine principle and interest.
  • Five representatives were appointed and confirmed to a board of directors for The Woodlands RUD #1 in an initial “election” in 1992 preformed in one of the few residential homes in the district, which have since been torn down for commercial use.
  • These representatives were uncontested until 2010 when Jenkins 3 friends completed applications to get their names on the ballot.
  • In fact, The Woodland’s RUD #1 had skipped 15 election cycles because they believed that there were no registered voters in the district.
  • There are no residential zones within The Woodlands RUD #1 and only one couple has been given special permission to construct a residence next to a commercial building they own in The Woodlands RUD #1. This information only surfaced because Jenkins and his friends were pushing for an election to be held.
  • At this time, according to the Board of Directors, there are only 4 registered voters in The Woodlands RUD #1 and each is registered at a commercial property.
  • In 2015 (after Jenkins’s conviction), the board for The Woodlands RUD #1 was expanded from 5 to 7 directors “to broaden the representation (of the RUD).” Who, exactly, they are representing is unclear.
  • Once again these “representatives” were appointed by The Woodlands city Commissioners and will presumably run unopposed for the foreseeable future.

How Did Jenkins Become Involved with The Woodlands RUD #1?

Jenkins involvement began because of Adrian Heath, a friend and fellow resident in the city of The Woodlands, Texas. From 2008 to 2009 Heath discovered The Woodlands RUD #1 while researching local government debt. Like most residents of The Woodlands, Texas, he frequented the roads and businesses within The Woodlands RUD #1 often and he felt that the decisions made by it’s representatives, and their indebtedness, effected all the residents of the city.

Heath was concerned about the fact that the representatives on the board are not held accountable to the residents of the city and “Heath believed that the RUD’s board acted primarily to benefit The Woodlands Development Company.”

He did extensive research and had correspondence with local and state officials, including email correspondence with attorney Mike Page who deals with “public finance and local government law, including representation of municipal utility districts“. He discovered that three of the five positions for The Woodlands RUD #1 representatives were set to expire in 2010, and thus were up for election. This spurred more researched into legal avenues for being elected to these positions and the process of attaining residency in The Woodland’s RUD #1 for the purpose of voting.

In 2009, he gathered together a group of his friends, including Jenkins, and gave a presentation to raise awareness about The Woodlands RUD #1, their indebtedness, and to encourage his friends to run for positions on the board. The ultimate goal being to be elected and to use the positions to dissolve the district altogether.

Richard McDuffee, Peter J. Goeddertz, and Bill Berntsen Challenge the Incumbent Board Directors in 2010

  • McDuffee, Goeddertz, and Berntsen are all Republicans, politically active, and long-time residents of the city of The Woodlands, Texas.
  • All three complete applications to be on the ballot for the positions.
  • All three, along with Heath, Jenkins, and five other supporters changed their voter registration address to 9333 Six Pines Drive, the address of a Marriott Residence Inn located within The Woodlands RUD #1 boundaries.
  • A document from the Voter Registrar for the County of Montgomery dates April 19th, 2010 lists them and states the office “certify that this list of registered voters is comprised of the Official State List of Registered Voters…”
  • On April 21, 2010 Jenkins, and most of the others, were sent letters from the DA Phil Grant encouraging them to seek counsel and look into laws regarding their voter eligibility or residency. They already had done so, but did so again.
  • The letter also referenced The Attorney General Opinion Number GA-0141 which states “the intention of the voter registration applicant is crucial to a proper determination of residence and every person is strongly presumed to have “the right and privilege of fixing his residence according to his own desires.””
  • Jenkins, McDuffee, Goeddertz, Berntsen, Heath and the five other supporters made reservations and checked-in at the Marriott Residence Inn the day before the election.
  • All of them voted.
  • Early voting totals on election day, May 8th 2010, showed two votes for the incumbents. Presumably from the couple mentioned earlier who are the only landowners who had special permission to build a residence next to their commercial building within the RUD.
  • The incumbents lost the election 10-2 with all 10 votes for McDuffee, Goeddertz, and Berntsen placed by themselves, Jenkins, Heath and their supporters.
  • A few days after the election the incumbents filed a lawsuit to challenge the election results based on voter fraud.
  • As a result, many of those involved booked additional stays at Marriott Residence Inn and Jenkins even changed his driver’s license address and placed his home for sale.
  • Election results were eventually tossed by a Judge and the incumbents regained their seats.
  • Jenkins was indicted for third-degree felony of illegal voting on March 8th, 2012. He was convicted and sentenced to 3 years in prison.
  • In addition, Adrian Heath, and two other supporters who refused to plead guilty in exchange for probation have also been convicted of illegal voting and sentenced to prison.
  • All four convictions are being challenged.
  • The other six individuals involved eventually plead guilty in exchange for probation, all except one continued to assert that they believed what they were doing was legal when they gave testimony at their friends trials.
  • The one whose testimony acknowledge personal guilt did so only because he was the only one who did not physically stay over night at the hotel. He stated that he believed that physical presence was required for claiming residence at the hotel.

The Mistake of Law Defense

In June of 2013, Jenkins was convicted of voter fraud and sentenced to 3 years in prison for voting in a 2010 election for The Woodlands Road Utility District #1 (RUD). In June of 2015, this conviction was overturned because the Jury was not counseled that they had the option to find Jenkins not guilty based on mistake of law. They were also denied testimony that Jenkins sought counsel from Texas state officials prior to changing their voter registration address.

A mistake of law defense generally argues that a person is not guilty of violating law because he/she did not understand how the law applied to them. It typically requires that the defendant made an effort to understand the law and how it applied to them, but there have been cases in which it was used as a defense because a law had changed just prior to the offense.

Editorial Conclusion

Understanding the key issues about this case leaves more questions than answers. How was Jenkins even indicted if there is no law calling his actions illegal? Who exactly are these Board of Directors “representing”? Is there any  way for citizens of The Woodlands to participate in the elections for these director’s positions when there are no residential zones within the district? Why are these people being treated like violent criminals for attempting to legally participate in an election process which has an affect on them and their community?

It appears that Jenkins and his friends found a legal loophole to participate in an election which, for 8 years, went uncontested because of legal loopholes. A loophole that has been repeatedly exploited by developers in Montgomery County who hire “Rent-a-Voter” services to move voters into areas with no voters for the purpose of voting on Bonds to pay the developers. Despite this, Jenkins and three others were convicted of third-degree felony charges for illegal voting and sentenced to prison. It also appears that The Woodlands RUD #1 boundaries were placed specifically to keep voters from participating in the election process and that the “elected” representatives of the district used the legal system to commit election fraud in order to maintain their positions of power.

Other shady facts about this case include: a law firm that has represented both the incumbents and also The Woodlands Development Company (the primary company receiving money from the RUD bonds), campaign contributions for political officials intent on prosecuting Jenkins and his friends which came from both The Woodlands Development Company and the law firm. Additionally, a sworn affidavit from Jim Doyle who spoke with Tommy Williams about the case where Williams acknowledge that he would “influence Attorney General Greg Abbot to prosecute [them]” was not allowed as evidence in these individuals cases.

Luckily for Jenkins, the Judge overturned the conviction and sent the case for retrial. Unfortunately, Jenkins’s fate still hangs in the balance and The Woodlands RUD #1 continues to create more local government debt to pay the contractors of their choosing unchallenged and without constituents to hold them accountable.

South Dakota Voter Fraud Case: Overkill Conviction

On Tuesday June 1st, Annette Bosworth’s trial commenced in a South Dakota voter fraud case. On Wednesday June 2nd, she was convicted of  six counts of filing a false document and six counts of perjury. Okay, that sounds pretty bad right? It is. These are all felony charges. She faces 24 years in prison, $48,000 in fines, and could lose her license to practice medicine. Okay, that sounds really bad!

So what exactly did Annette do?

The Facts About the South Dakota Voter Fraud Case

Annette Bosworth is a mother, wife, physician, and was born in South Dakota. In 2013 she became interested in running for U.S. Senate for the Republican Party in South Dakota. To be on the ballet in South Dakota, you must meet a long list of requirements and collect petition signatures from supporters. So she placed the petition on the front desk at her clinic. Then disaster struck in the Philippines and Annette traveled with a Christian medical relief team to provide assistance, leaving the petition on the clinic desk to collect petitions. When she returned, six more signatures had been added to the petition (all six are from real live eligible voters). Once she had collected all the signatures she needed, she turned in the documents. She also alleges that a campaign employee had advised her that the requirement that to witness all the signatures was not something that was taken seriously in South Dakota. This was clearly bad advice.

These facts were never in dispute. Annette is guilty of fraud and during the course of this case has never denied that she did not personally witness those six signatures. Why didn’t she just plead guilty? Probably because she was being charge with 12 felony charges. All the evidence seems to indicate that this was an honest mistake on Annette’s part. Unfortunately, Jury’s are not asked to judge if the charges are too significant for the offense and they are not expected to weigh the penalties of conviction against the crime. They are simply expected to decide if someone committed the crime they are charged with. After more than three hours of deliberation, and given the facts, the Jury had no real option other than to find her guilty. Attorney General Marty Jackley believes that, “the jury has sent a message that our elections in South Dakota are sacred and that the election process is important,” a sentiment that is supported by most. Elections are, in a way, sacred and the election process is obviously important. But, in this case, does the punishment fit the crime?

Annette and her attorney plan to appeal the conviction, and depending on the outcome, she will then have to await sentencing. She faces a felony record, up to 24 years in prison, up to $48,000 in fines, and could lose her license to practice medicine. It is unlikely that a Judge would impose jail time given that this is a non-violent crime, but she could still lose her medical license which threatens the well being of her entire family.

Tendency Towards Passivity or Overkill: Voter Fraud Talking Points

Voting is an essential element in democracy and, thus, preventing and prosecuting voter fraud is fundamentally important. Over the last few years, Voter Fraud political talking points has been pervasive in US media. The right shouts, “Voter fraud is destroying our democracy!” and the left replies, “Voter fraud is not real.” The truth is that voter fraud is real and it is important to prevent. The truth is that we must protect the elections process. However, it is also true that serious acts of voter fraud are not common and they are not destroying our democracy (at least not right now).

What may be threatening our democracy: the inability of our elected officials to have rational dialogue about important issues and work together to solve problems. Annette Bosworth’s case offers a good metaphorical mirror to the overall voter fraud debate. The crime is real and the actions taken to address the crime are overkill.

Election Official Voter Fraud – Philadelphia

Four Philadelphia Election Officials are Charged with Voter Fraud

The district Attorney in Philadelphia issued warrants for the arrest of four of its election officials for voter fraud. The individuals are accused of adding 6 ballots to the machine after the 2014 general election closed. It appears that 6 eligible voters may have signed in to vote, but not actually voted. The investigation relieved that the election officials from Philadelphia’s 18th Ward, 1st Division, added the 6 votes after closing to ensure that the number of voters in the sign-in book matched the number of votes cast. If this was the only issue with this case, one might chalk it up to criminal stupidity. Unfortunately, it appears that three of the individuals charged also falsified their qualifications to be election officials at this location. Your see, to be an election official in a particular area, you must live in the area. This men did not live and are not registered to vote in Philadelphia’s 18th Ward, 1st Division.

The Fourth person charged with voter fraud in this case is Sandra Lee who served as the 1st Division’s Judge of Elections is being charge with conspiracy, tampering with records, unsworn falsification, and obstructing justice, among other related charges.

This is not Philadelphia’s first case of election official voter fraud either. In 2014 Election Judge Dianah Gregory was found guilty of tampering with voting machines. This prompted Philadelphia DA Seth Williams to create an Election Fraud Task Force, not only to investigate the claims of voter fraud, but during each election there are a number of individuals tasked with watching polling stations and to respond quickly to any complaint calls on election days.

Election Official Voter Fraud vs Impersonation Voter Fraud

The tragedy of voter fraud is that it is real, but not always in the light that the media or politicians portray it. Election Official Voter Fraud, while rare in the grand scheme of things, is one of the more common types of in-person voter fraud. Impersonation types of voter fraud is where a person either: is not actually eligible to vote and does so anyways, votes multiple times using other peoples’ voter registration, or votes multiple times because they are intentionally registered to vote in multiple locations. Impersonation Voter Fraud, while often portrayed as rampant, has been shown to be quite rare. Recently, a wave of Voter-ID laws have been making their way across the country aimed at making a dent in voter fraud. These types of laws disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters and do absolutely nothing to curb election official voter fraud. Election officials don’t have to show ID to vote because they are supposedly vetted and are responsible for ensuring that other voters follow voting laws.

The election officials are tasked ensuring a fair and just election process by ensuring that polling places are accessible and safe for eligible voters. This position also gives them access to impede or obstruct or tamper with the voting process. Election officials who abuse their position should be prosecuted and it seems that Philadelphia’s DA intends to do just that.

Online Voter Registration Available in 20 States

The Pew Charitable Trusts just finished reviewing the online voter registration process in the 20 states that offer it. The report notes cost savings, mobile optimization, and accessibility for those with disabilities or English as their second language. Most importantly, electronic voter registration offers a real advantage for maintaining accurate and up-to-date registered voter rolls, reducing the potential for voter fraud. In addition, and not discussed in the report, accurate voter rolls play an important part in voter turn-out statistics. With the wide spread reports and studies showing millions of people registered to vote in more than one state and millions more registered voters who are actually deceased. It is possible that the US’s record low voter turn-out in recent years is not as low as it appears. Electronic and online voter registration could offer real solutions in the debate over voter fraud.

About Online Voter Registration

In 2002, Arizona began paving the way for online voter registration. Many other states quickly followed suit. As of April 2014 it was available in 20 states and, according to the Brennan Center, seven more states have either passed legislation for or are currently working on implementation of online registration.

Online Voter Registration Map

Online Voter Registration: Benefits

There are a multitude of benefits of Online Voter Registration including:

Cost Reduction

  • States are spending between $0.50 and $2.34 less per online voter registration compared to paper registration.
  • Some states offering online voting have not yet been able to realize this savings because the local counties are not yet fully integrated electronically and the online registration is still having to be printed and sent to these counties.
  • California reported saving $2 million in 2012 as a result of online registration.
  • Implementing the online process cost less than $300,000 in nine of the fourteen states that reported cost with an averaged of $249,000 per state overall.

Increased Accuracy

  • States reported improved accuracy with electronic submission because “the staff isn’t trying to decipher handwriting.”
  • Online voter registration improves accuracy of the state’s voter rolls by identifying duplicate registrations. This typically occurs when a person moves and registers to vote in their new county without notifying the old county of their move, but it is perceived as voter fraud by many and definitely has that potential.
  • Has the potential of offering that same benefit between states once all states have implemented an electronic database of registered voters.
  • 6.9 million voters are registered in more than one state.
  • Accurate voting rolls also means more accurate understanding of voter turn-out.
  • 16 of the 20 states offer real-time connection with DMV for processing registrations.
  • Has the potential of improving the process of removing deceased individuals from the voter rolls as well, especially if states also have a centralized electronic system for death records. Again, deceased individuals who are still registered to vote is mostly perceived as voter fraud, but definitely leaves the door open for it and it absolutely does affect the accuracy of voter turn-out statistics.
  • According to 1 study, 1.8 million dead persons are still in the voter rolls in the US.

Increased Accessibility

  • 9 of the 20 states with online voter registration have mobile accessibility.
  • Easier registration for military members stationed away from home and those in rural communities.
  • Half of the states offer languages other than English.
  • Improves access for persons with disabilities that might affect their ability to register using traditional methods.

Customer and Election Official Satisfaction

  • All states cited customer satisfaction and reduced burden on election officials as the main benefits of online voter registration.

Online Voter Registration: Shortfalls

There are some areas for improvement within states utilizing online voter registration. This includes:

State Driver’s License or ID is Required

  • All states except Delaware require state driver’s license or ID number for online registration, though Maryland does offer alternative for those citizens covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
  • This is despite the fact that some of these states requiring state driver’s license or ID number for online registration only require non-photo identification for voting.
  • Get more information about the challenges for voters when requiring state ID’s on our Voter ID page.

Not Fully Integrated with Local Counties

  • Not every state has been able to fully integrate electronic registrations with local officials, so they are missing out on the cost savings and/or efficiency available with online voter registration.

Poor Promotion of Online Voter Registration

  • Some states noted their own short comings with promotion of electronic voter registration citing only a small percentage of their registrations are occurring online.

Which States Offer Online Voter Registration?

What States are Expected to have Online Voter Registration Soon?

  • Hawaii – Online Registration is expected in 2016 and will offer election day registration at all polling sites by 2018.
  • Iowa – Currently you can submit electronic voter registration in-person at the state’s DMV and expected to have online submission in 2016.
  • Massachusetts – Currently you can submit electronic voter registration in-person at the state’s DMV and they have passed an online voter registration ballot measure, but it is not yet in effect.
  • Oklahoma – In the process of implementing, but no ETA available.
  • Nebraska – Currently you can submit electronic voter registration in-person at the state’s DMV and they have passed online registration legislation expected to go into effect in 2017.
  • New Mexico – Currently you can submit electronic voter registration in-person at the state’s DMV and is in the process of implementing online registration with no ETA.
  • West Virginia – Have passed legislation for online voter registration, but no ETA as of yet.