Busting the Ballot Brokers

County officials hope reforms will prevent absentee-ballot trickery

A second provision calls for individuals to be deputized before being allowed to assist a voter with an absentee ballot. All too often, Sherbet says, ballot brokers are working for specific campaigns and have little, if any, accountability to the system. This leads to a host of questionable practices, including campaign workers falsely identifying themselves as county election officials; electioneering while an individual is in the process of voting; specifically telling a voter for whom they should vote; and taking ballots that are signed but unmarked and later filling in their candidate's name.

"Theoretically, a person should be able to vote in their home without someone standing there pressuring them about whom to vote for," Garrett says. "There shouldn't be any form of electioneering at the place of voting, be that at the polls or in the home. But how do you write that into law? What constitutes improper electioneering? It's a gray area...and there's really no way of enforcing it."

By becoming volunteer deputy election officials, individuals would be educated about proper and improper ballot collection practices and would be required to swear an oath. The current vote-collecting system could be dealt a fatal blow if the reforms pass, Jackson says, since any person deputized to help absentee voters wouldn't be allowed to accept any compensation for that work.

Lee Jackson, head of the Dallas County Commissioners Court, says, “The issue of absentee-ballot fraud has become a lot like the nuclear arms race. It keeps escalating and escalating.”
Lee Jackson, head of the Dallas County Commissioners Court, says, “The issue of absentee-ballot fraud has become a lot like the nuclear arms race. It keeps escalating and escalating.”

But, with absentee-ballot cheating such a time-honored tradition in Dallas, are reforms likely? Maybe, Garrett says. "If we can sustain the indignation for another 18 months, then I think we might see some changes."

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