Dewhurst calls for investigation after video of alleged election misconduct surfaces

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst addresses the senate chamber during an attempted filibuster of an abortion bill by Sen. Wendy Davis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN (AP) — The Texas Secretary of State referred three complaints against Democratic group Battleground Texas for possible prosecution as violations of a state election law on Friday.

Battleground Texas issued a statement, saying it has done nothing wrong and that the complaints and referrals were partisan attempts to slow the group.

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office, which would normally investigate further, recused itself and forwarded the complaints in a letter to Susan Reed, the district attorney in Bexar County, where one of the violations allegedly took place.

Abbott is running for governor against Democrat Wendy Davis, whom Battleground Texas is assisting by registering voters, building a supporter database and ultimately mobilizing those voters for the Nov. 4 general election.

Reed said she was looking at “possible penal implications,” including charges of abuse of official capacity or even misuse of official information — a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

But Reed may also have to recuse herself too.

“I am in the unique position of being on the ballot myself as a Republican and I want to ensure that I am not in the same situation or feel that I have to take the same course of action as the attorney general,” she said.

Reed said the attorney general’s office told her possible violations occurred in Dallas, Fort Worth as well as San Antonio. She said if she does step aside, she may refer the case to Fort Worth, where the district attorney is not on the ballot — but won’t make a final decision until next week.

Alicia Pierce, communications director for the Republican-appointed secretary of state, declined to comment on the referrals. Neither state office released copies of the complaints filed against Battleground Texas.

Pierce said the initial complaints were filed after a conservative activist group produced a video that purports to show a Battleground organizer talking about transcribing phone numbers off of voter registration cards. James O’Keefe, whose group Project Veritas made the video, alleges that transcribing the phone numbers off the registration cards is illegal.

Project Veritas uses hidden cameras to film Democratic Party and liberal politicians and activists. The videos are heavily edited and some in the past have misrepresented the actions of the people in them.

Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he believed there was enough evidence for a criminal prosecution.

“It appears that representatives of Battleground Texas were either official registrars who misused personal voter information, or they unlawfully posed as official voter registrars to trick people into handing over personal information,” Dewhurst said in a statement. “The seriousness of this issue merits immediate referral to the Attorney General’s office.”

Battleground Texas, though, said taking down the numbers does not violate the law.

“We will show that these claims restate various demonstrably false assertions, and fail to note legal authority issued in the past by the Attorney General that flatly undermines any suggestion of a violation of law,” the group’s statement said.

Battleground Texas’ full response:
“Battleground Texas is in full compliance with the law. In our efforts to register voters, we are facing unfounded, inaccurate and misleading assertions by Republicans directed at one thing – making sure fewer Texans vote.

“The allegations are based on footage by admitted criminal James O’Keefe whose partisan Republican antics of doctoring videos are well known. Those associating themselves with him, making claims of fraud and using his rhetoric for their political gain should be ashamed of themselves. What is undoubtedly true is that if Republicans are willing to stoop to such transparent tactics then they are terrified of the prospect of more Texans going to the ballot box.

“In the next few days we will send a more detailed response exposing these claims as utterly without foundation in Texas law. We will show that these claims restate various demonstrably false assertions, and fail to note legal authority issued in the past by the Attorney General that flatly undermines any suggestion of a violation of law.

“The forces of freedom in our nation’s history faced down savage beatings, snarling dogs and water cannons to ensure the right to vote. While Republicans are having this false battle in the press, we will continue registering voters and ensuring that their voices are heard at the ballot box this November.”

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