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Tarrant County Election Integrity Task Force reports 82 voter fraud complaints, no cases filed

The Tarrant County Commissioner's held their weekly meeting in the Tarrant County Administration Building in downtown Fort Worth on March 14, 2023.
Emily Nava
/
KERA
The Tarrant County Commissioner's Court got an update on the Elections Integrity Task Force at the Tarrant County Administration Building in downtown Fort Worth on Tuesday.

The Tarrant County Election Integrity Task Force received 82 complaints of alleged voter fraud over the past 15 months. In that time, zero charges have been filed.

That's according to County Administrator Chandler Merritt, who spoke at Tuesday’s Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court meeting.

The task force was created by Sheriff Bill Waybourn, County Judge Tim O’Hare and District Attorney Judge Phil Sorrells and was announced to the public February 2023.

But the trio of elected officials did not consult then-Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia, or any other election official when creating the task force.

Garcia left the elections administrator position last year following a barrage of personal attacks and even death threats.

Some far-right conservative groups suggested there was widespread election fraud in Tarrant County.

Commissioners were briefed by Merritt, but neither a sheriff’s spokesperson nor a district attorney spokesperson was present. Those absences worried Precinct 2 Commissioner Alisa Simmons.

“It is remarkable that neither the DA or sheriff are here to brief us since this was their idea,” Simmons said. “They were such enthusiastic supporters of having this task force. So I expected to be briefed by them and not [County Administrator Chandler Merritt]. It is concerning, but not unremarkable.”

Simmons would later say that the task forces does not appear to be necessary.

“We are approaching a big election cycle,” Simmons said. “We have dedicated funds and staff to this task force and I just wanted to see if after a year, it has been performing or if it's necessary. With 82 complaints in a county of 2.2 million, it seems like a waste of taxpayer dollars to me. Hopefully at some point we can get a full update from either the district attorney or the sheriff on the necessity of this task force.”

The task force consists of three attorneys from the district attorney's office and one sheriff's investigator.

Complaints are sent to either the sheriff's or the Criminal District Attorney's offices to be processed and investigated.

One Tarrant County resident expressed his resentment toward the creation of this task taskforce during public comments.

“The intimation is that in Tarrant County politics, all of the many, many years prior to the formation of this woefully dubious and highly superfluous task force, all of those years, the county elections lacked integrity,” the resident said. “Where is this rampant election fraud. The very fact that there has been so little pushback on the very existence of this task force that was conceptualized to intimidate voters and suppress voters is scary.”

Another Tarrant County resident is concerned about the involvement of elected officials in an election integrity task force.

“It is fundamentally flawed that you would set up an election integrity unit that is headed by elected officials,” the resident said. “If we were truly interested in pursuing the concerns that we purport to be interested in, we'd have a non-partisan public interest entity heading this up. But it is very clear to me that is not the intent of this integrity unit.”

During the previous presidential election, nearly 69% percent of voters cast a ballot in Tarrant County, that is over of 830,000 ballots cast.

Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela is KERA's summer 2024 SPJ news intern. Got a tip? Email Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela at erivas@kera.org.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism with minors in political science and Chicano studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. Emmanuel has worked at his school’s paper The Prospector and the sister publication Minero Magazine. Most recently, Emmanuel interned with the non-profit news site El Paso Matters and McClatchy. Emmanuel expects to graduate this December.