Fraud? Did We Say Fraud? Transcript of a Texas Backdown

Hubert Vo Election Challenge Hearing:
An Abridged Transcript

Evening of Jan. 28, 2005
John H. Reagan Building, Austin, TX

Master of Inquiry Will Hartnett (R-Dallas): Where do we stand on evidence that could be categorized as evidence of fraud or evidence of non-fraud?

Andy Taylor, Attorney for the Challenger: One area that has come out as troubling in the past few days is there seems to be some pattern involving the registration of voters without their consent or knowledge or approval in House Dist. 137 (NOT Vo’s District) for whatever purpose I know not. But we’ve seen that over and over and over again as we’ve gone through these pieces of paper. So, one possible area of fraud that the local District Attorney in Harris County may wish to consider is just exactly what was going on in those instances. That’s number one.

Hartnett: And that’s about four or five votes?

Taylor: I think so.

Hartnett: OK?

* * *

Taylor: In fact, we were able to prove through one voter under oath, that she had voted twice. We were able to demonstrate several other voters voted more than once.

I’m not here to state or speculate what was in the mind of any of these voters. I do not know. And I want to make it very clear that the purpose of this election contest is not to determine if voters broke laws with criminal intent. The purpose of this proceeding is merely to determine if ballots were cast illegally. And illegally is a word that can be misunderstood. Under the election code, in the election contest context, illegal means not eligible to be counted. We did not seek any discovery from any of the 268 questionable ballots that we alleged as we started this hearing, no evidence was sought by us as to whether these illegal votes were done knowingly or in violation of any penal statute. That’s not our purpose, that’s not our burden. And we suggest that would be in the jurisdiction of others such as the local District Attorney in the county where the activities transpired.

So hopefully I’ve been clear that we have uncovered facts which are deeply troubling in specific instances as we have talked about over the past two days, but we’re not here to say that any criminal laws have been broken.

* * *

Taylor: In fact I think it would have been counterproductive, because had I asked questions that sought to elicit responses that penal code violations criminal laws had been broken, then there might very well be some immunity issues that would have to be worked out. There might be some self-incrimination privileges that might attach, and we might actually find ourselves in a situation where voters did not have the ability to answer my questions for fear that they might incriminate themselves in a court or in any kind of criminal sanctions situation.

Hartnett: It could have hampered this process.

Taylor: Absolutely.

* * *

Hartnett: A final question. And so the total number of votes for which we arguably have or may have evidence that fraud was associated with is approximately 15 votes?

Taylor: I’m not sure I can put a number on it, and I actually would rather not even say as to the numbers that we found that evidence is troubling that that constitutes anything more than an ineligible vote that cannot be counted or an eligible vote that shouldn’t have been discarded. I would rather not state on the record any opinion about whether or not any of these fact patterns go beyond civil election code violations and go to a higher level of criminal consequence. With the master’s permission I would simply not answer that question because frankly I don’t know.

Hartnett: Well, you’ve pleaded fraud, and so that’s why I have to ask, because this is a very serious allegation, so for the members of the house, I think that is something that would rise to extremely high level of concern. For their benefit, I have to somehow be able to quantify, because they are going to ask me where are intentional misdeeds in attempting to thwart the election as compared to innocent or inadvertent or sloppy election law violations.

Taylor: I understand your question, let me try to answer that and I’ll be done. First of all, I’ve been speaking in terms of whether or not criminal statutes have been broken. When I use the word fraud, I’m not talking about breaking criminal law. That was never my intention when I filed the election contest and said we had found deeply disturbing evidence of voter fraud and other irregularities. So I was not intending ever to say that penal statutes had been violated. Having said that, let me get to your question.

I think that the areas where there is a very significant concern are the ones in which voter registration applications have been forged by others and where people have voted more than once.

Hartnett: Fifteen votes.

Taylor: Yes, approximately a dozen or so fact patterns that cause us that concern.

* * *

Hartnett: So besides those two fact patterns you have not presented any evidence of fraudulent conduct by any person in this case.

Taylor: I have not even tried to, because I don’t know what was in the minds of the voters. That’s right, Master Hartnett.

Hartnett: Okay, thanks very much. Do you want to respond?

Larry Veselka, Attorney for Hubert Vo: I just want to say, is contestant Heflin withdrawing his pleadings of fraud or at least limiting his pleadings of fraud to the instances of accusations of double voting or in instances where there may have been some evidence or finding by the Master of fraudulent re-registration of somebody outside their precincts.

Hartnett: I don’t think he’s filed that amendment, but if you’ve got anything to say Mr. Taylor.

Taylor: I stand on what I just said.

Hartnett: OK

Veselka: I just want to say that a double vote that was found was for Heflin, and the fraudulent re-registrations were issues where there were African American votes being pulled away that they were trying to preclude from being counted here. So I don’t want to spend a whole bunch of time, but in a potentially political audience which I address I believe fervently that both sides want an accurate and fair hearing here, but there’s some concern about crocodile tears at this time after what all’s gone on over the last three months to claiming that. ‘oh, how did anybody ever think we were talking about fraud?’ I just feel that that needs to be said for the audience that hears it there.

We believe, as we have said all along, that this is a fair election. We believe that there are people that make mistakes, they get busy, and they don’t always complete all their paperwork right. And we have election judges that don’t do it all right. And they get confused on the technicalities and some of them have been doing it one way for 20 years and the laws change or the forms change, or the provisional ballots change, and they don’t always get all the new training. They’re making a great effort, they’ve all made a great effort, the people that are involved in this….

* * *

Taylor: I would like to make one last comment base on what was just stated. I’m very proud of the fact that we went as vigorously for illegal votes that were cast for my client as we did for ones that were cast for Mr. Hubert Vo. One of the double voters voted for my client, and I brought that evidence to you. I also, because I don’t know how people voted, I didn’t screen them and selectively go after them.

Co-counsel for Hubert Vo, Richard E. Gra
y, leans forward and clears his throat.

Taylor: I didn’t ask voters the question who didn’t want to answer the question, and guess what, the answers I got, illegal votes for my client. And you know I’m proud of that.

Master Hartnett says uh-huh.

Taylor then talks about one voter who was identified for questioning by the Vo team but who was not reached in time to meet the deadline for discovery, so Taylor took it upon himself to secure the deposition after the deadline passed. And although the deposition showed the voter had NOT voted for Vo in the first place, Taylor brought in the deposition anyway. He wonders if Vo’s attorneys would have done the same?

Veselka: There was an accusation there that we’re not following the rules in this proceeding. And I think the record is pretty clear who has followed the rules and who has followed the deadlines and who has not.

The true outcome of the election was for Hubert Vo.

Is the record closed?

Hartnett: The record is closed.

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