Vote Early, Vote Often

The story behind the failed Caraway campaign is both farce and tragedy

Now I have to fill you in on another little aspect of this story that hasn't received any public attention until now. Do you wonder why there was anybody at all watching on election day to see if the absentee ballots were coming in the right way? I have two words to offer you:

Laura Miller.

City council member Miller was the major muscle on this issue. She, and many others on the council, had heard the rumors leading up to the runoff that Caraway was trying to steal the election through absentee-ballot trickery. So she jumped into the effort to challenge Caraway's absentee ballots up to her neck, behind the scenes, from the beginning. She enlisted a lawyer who volunteered his time, as well as a private investigator and film crew hired by the lawyer to stake out Caraway's campaign office. On two occasions, people connected with Miller or Oakley barged into the Caraway office at 1418 Bonnie View in order to prove that it was indeed a campaign office. At Miller's urging, the Oakley campaign got more militant about the issue and began posting volunteers such as Moffat at key places.

City Elections Administrator Brooks Love gave Dwaine Caraway a break on some of the absentee ballots his campaign collected but had to toss a bunch of the rest of them out.
Mark Graham
City Elections Administrator Brooks Love gave Dwaine Caraway a break on some of the absentee ballots his campaign collected but had to toss a bunch of the rest of them out.

The goal was to make sure Caraway didn't get away with breaking the law by shipping in a big truckload of absentee ballots from a stash at one of his campaign offices. But there was one big factor the Miller/Caraway forces hadn't figured on. Caraway had no idea anybody was trying to catch him. He must have assumed it was business as usual, the way it's been done in Dallas for years.

Let me explain. Try to get this picture. The Caraway people keep getting raided by unidentified strangers. And they were being staked out all weekend. They must have been peeping out through the curtains: "No, the FBI doesn't drive Mercedes station wagons. That looks more like Laura Miller to me. I think she's got her kids with her."

But did they get it? Did they figure out that something might be about to happen?

Now it's Zero Hour. And by the way, I have this story from Nancy Moffat, County Elections Director Bruce Sherbet, City Secretary Shirley Acy and Oakley campaign manager David Marquis, all of whom I interviewed separately. The Caraway people told me he would not comment.

Moffatt is in place at Dallas County election headquarters along with several other very keyed-up Oakleyites, waiting for Dwaine Caraway's sneaky agents to make their big play with the ballots. The elevator door opens. Off steps a "courier," but instead of a nefarious fake UPS uniform, he's wearing a Dwaine Caraway T-shirt. He is accompanied by a woman and a small child and is toting a big U.S. Postal Service box of absentee ballots.

Moffat steps up to the guy and says, "Where did all these ballots come from?"

"Oh, from Dwaine Caraway," he says.

Wanting to make sure all of the Elections Department employees in the room hear it again, Moffat engages the man in conversation--not exactly the rubber hose treatment. She asks if the ballots came from the Caraway office at 1418 Bonnie View.

The guy is very pleasant, very upbeat. He says, "Yeah, the office at 1418 Bonnie View. That's one of the main offices."

Now here's the kicker. Even though the man had just confessed in front of everybody that he had picked up this bundle of 160 ballots at a Caraway campaign office, the ballots were counted anyway, because the Caraway campaign had put a different address on the guy's courier slip. Nobody was prepared to prove that the address on the slip was a campaign office. And Dallas City Elections Administrator Brooks Love, along with his boss, City Secretary Shirley Acy, ruled that the guy's statement that he had picked up the box of ballots at 1418 Bonnie View was "hearsay."

I don't think it's hearsay when the guy says it himself. I think it's more like "Say here." But let's not be lawyers.

Election officials did throw out approximately 150 absentee ballots brought in by Caraway couriers in other shipments. On those, the Caraway campaign had thoughtfully inscribed the 1418 Bonnie View address on the courier slip.

So let's add this up. "Couriers" come in wearing Caraway T-shirts. In some cases they even bring paperwork showing they have picked up the ballots at a Caraway office. And remember: This work is being carried out by "professionals."

Here's the point. This kind of ballot chicanery takes place in Dallas elections on a wholesale basis, with complete impunity and total arrogance. It has been so easy to get away with in the past that the people doing it don't even bother to hide. The only reason anybody even knows about it this time is because Miller went on a major military tear.

So what does all of this tell you about the legitimacy of the big decisions that have been made around here in the last several years? How about the Trinity River vote, which will obligate this city financially for decades to come and may change the geography of the region forever? Do we wonder where those ballots came from? Do we all have our thinking caps on?

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