In Texas’ Biggest County, A Minority Registration Drive Is Crippled By Fraud Allegations

Catherine Engelbrecht of True The Vote
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The events over the last month in Harris County, Texas offer a crystal-clear example of how voter fraud allegations work, with a Tea Party group alleging fraud, a minority registration group alleging suppression and defamation, the county registrar declaring war and the state Dems jumping into the fray with a lawsuit of their own.

The Tea Party group even went so far as to claim that the headquarters of the voter registration group is the “New Black Panthers’ office.”

What happens in Harris County is important for the rest of the country: Harris is the largest county in Texas. Experts say that if enough of the eligible voters there register to vote, and then vote in 2012, it could change the way Texas votes in 2012. With 34 electoral votes, that could change the outcome of the election itself.

This summer, a local Tea Party offshoot called True The Vote started digging through voter registrations, looking for fraud. The group’s president, Catherine Engelbrecht, told Fox News that she focused on a district with high numbers of homes with more than six registered voters — a district which also, according to Fox, happens to be the poorest district in Houston, with predominantly minority residents.

What she uncovered, she says, is evidence of massive voter fraud.

“Vacant lots had several voters registered on them. An eight-bed halfway house had more than 40 voters registered at its address,” Engelbrecht said.

In the end, she claimed, she found thousands of fraudulent registrations, all of them stemming from a low-income civic participation group called Houston Votes.

The county’s Republican voter registrar, Leo Vasquez, jumped on the allegations, holding a press conference on Aug. 24 and accusing Houston Votes of conducting “an organized and systemic attack” on the county’s voter rolls. He claimed a third of the 25,000 voter registrations submitted by Houston Votes were invalid, and said he had forwarded his charges on to the county district attorney as well as the Texas secretary of state.

The president of Houston Votes, Fred Lewis, was aghast. He held his own press conference calling Vasquez a “disgrace.” Lewis also says that he had been talking with Vasquez’s office since July about how best to conduct such a massive registration drive — they were attempting to register 100,000 new voters — with minimal errors.

A few days later, the Texas Democratic Party sued Vasquez, claiming he had violated a settlement stemming from a similar 2008 lawsuit between the Democrats and Vasquez’s office.

A few weeks after that, on Sept. 24, Lewis sued True The Vote. He claims that the group blatantly lied when it said most of its registrations had been rejected, and that the “vacant lot” registrations had been made in 2008 and 2009 — before Houston Votes was founded and when those lots still had homes on them.

“Plaintiffs believe that these are only a small part of the Defendants’ lies that have defamed and libeled Plaintiffs. In addition, Defendants have conspired with others to spread these and other lies,” the suit reads.

According to the lawsuit, Engelbrecht said — at an August meeting which featured DOJ whistleblower J. Christian Adams — that the Houston Votes headquarters is “the Texas office of the New Black Panthers.” In a video on Engelbrecht’s King Street Patriots’ web site, you can see her refer to a building as the “New Black Panthers’ office,” to gasps from the audience. She then mentions that people around the building wear T-shirts that look “suspiciously” like Houston Votes T-shirts.

You may also remember King Street Patriots as the group that prominently posted a photo of a black woman photoshopped to look like she was carrying a sign that read, “I only got to vote once!”

Houston Votes is still operating — but now registering just 200 people a day, instead of some 1,000 before any allegations were made.

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