TEXAS, WE HAVE A PROBLEM; VoteTexas.GOV
by Kelly Canon
I was in Austin this week… We met with the Director of Elections with the Texas Secretary of State (Mr Keith Ingram), to basically inform him that there are some significant “holes” in the level of information that their website puts forth. The main job of their office is to maintain the integrity of our elections here in Texas, AND publish any and all information on their website, “votexas.org”, so that the average voter is fully aware of the election process, the candidates, and all other election-related information, in order to cast an informed vote at the polls on Election day. Simple enough, right? WRONG…
Over the last few months, a group of us Texans (with the help and guidance of an attorney, “jbjd”) have been pouring over our election laws, specifically focusing on the Presidential Election laws (Title 11), and we have also been submitting requests for certain documents (via the Public Information Act), in order to find the answer to one simple question: How are the Presidential Candidates being “vetted”? Or more specifically, “What documentary evidence has been used to ascertain the eligibility of the Presidential candidates BEFORE their names are printed on our ballots?” You would think that this would be a simple enough question, with an even MORE simple answer… Apparently, it’s a little more complicated than the average voter is aware of! And the average voter here in Texas is supposed to be kept “informed” via the Texas Secretary of State (“TXSoS”) website(s). Think again…
Using the ‘Public Information Act’ procedure, we did the following:
#1: We asked the TXSoS Elections office for any and all documents that were submitted by the parties for qualifying them to be placed on the ballot. What we received was shocking. We received two spreadsheets. One for the Democrats, and one for the Republicans. Surprisingly, the responsive information (according to the TXSoS) was “reported by the state parties within an online system interface.” No scanned documents that would have included a cover letter from the party chairs, “certifying” the eligibility of the candidates. Nope. Just spreadsheets, showing the names of the candidates that were were electronically submitted to the TXSoS. Wow. Names, addresses and phone numbers on a spreadsheet. Okay. This is an answer.
#2: We asked the TXSoS Elections office for any and all rules, instructions, memos, applications, etc., that are used to verify the qualifications of the Independent and Write-in Presidential candidates (“unaffiliated” candidates). We were sent a stack of papers, which were blank applications, and all the related instructions that go with it. (Check out pages 19 & 31; These are the actual applications that the unaffiliated candidates are required to submit.) We noticed that the unaffiliated candidates’ application for President has the question, “Are you a Natural Born Citizen of the United States?”, and it also contained a swearing statement that is directed straight to the TXSoS. Nowhere among the instructions or memos was there any requirement for these candidates that they actually needed to produce any and all documentary evidence to back up the information that they are swearing to. None. Nada. Zip. Just an application.
#3: We then asked each of the “major” political parties (Republican and Democrat) for the same documents for each of the candidates that would “verify” their eligibility to be on our ballot. What did we get? Completed applications for Presidency from each candidate. The applications had different sets of questions and swearing statements, as they were “designed” by the party, and not the TXSoS. The Democrats’ form didn’t even ask about the “natural born” citizenship! And the swearing statement was directed only to the party – NOT to the TXSoS! On the Republican form, they DID ask about the NBC status, but the swearing statement was also directed straight to the party – NOT the TXSoS! So basically, we have two different forms, different questions, and the candidates only swear they are “telling the truth” straight to the chair of the party. That’s it. Nothing else. No birth certificates, no nothing. The applications are all that are used as “documentary evidence” that these candidates are federally qualified for the job.
Once we had everything we asked for, a few things became painfully clear:
A) No one has vetted the candidates. All that is available to scrutinize is the actual applications from the candidates. But keep in mind, we has to use the “Public Information Act” in order to obtain these documents! They are NOT something that is posted anywhere on any website, for public viewing.
B) According to the Texas Election Code 192.031, only the names of “federally qualified” candidates are entitled to have their names placed on our ballots.
C) According to that same statute, NO ONE is REQUIRED to verify the eligibility of these candidates.
D) How can any of these candidates be “federally qualified”, if all that is used to verify their eligibility is a simple one-page completed application for the job, and nothing else?
E) The average voter in Texas has no idea about ANY of this!
F) The TXSoS should be posting THIS kind of information on their website, so that all of us can be more educated about our election process, as well as the candidates themselves. And the TXSoS NOT posting any of this!
It was time to meet with the folks who “run the show”…. The Elections Office of the TXSoS. And we did just that!
For a full accounting of our meeting with the Elections Director (which happened Monday, April 30th), I now direct you to the attorney/blogger who has helped guide us through this quagmire: jbjd’s Blog She has chronicled our every step over the last few months, and her latest blog post will bring you up to speed. Start there!
ALSO, we have maintained a website explaining our mission, and documenting our steps, as well: The Texas Ballot Challenge (check out not only the front page, but also the “Progress” page, linked at the top.
Our next step is to get to the bottom of this, and find out (once and for all) where the buck REALLY stops! We hope to get an audience with our Governor, Rick Perry. Since he is the one who appointed Hope Andrade as our SoS, we hope to bring this “Information VOID” to his attention, and also urge him to consider calling an emergency Legislative session to fix this issue BEFORE the coming November General election. AND… If nothing else, we also hope to convince the TXSoS to use her authority to promulgate additional rules that will specify (with CLARITY) exactly what the candidates MUST produce (identifying documents from the issuing authority ONLY) in order to be placed on the GE ballot. There is no way this can be argued against, as it makes perfect sense to cover this issue THIS year, instead of waiting for next year’s legislative session! We need as many Texans as possible to help us convince the “powers that be” that something needs to be done BEFORE our General Election in November.