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Texas attorney general sets up unit for voter fraud claims in November election

portrait of Ken Paxton at 2017 press conference
Tony Gutierrez
Associated Press

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is launching a new unit to investigate potential claims of voter fraud during the Nov. 2 election.

The Republican attorney general’s announcement Monday coincided with the first day of early voting for the Texas constitutional amendment election. Paxton’s office says additional staff and resources will focus on ensuring security and transparency even though there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the state.

Paxton said in a statement that he’s establishing the unit, “to monitor this season’s local elections -- which, even though they’re local, must be run in accordance with state law.” The Attorney General’s office already operates a year-round “Election Integrity Division.” The latest effort includes a new email address where the public can share allegations.

The initiative is drawing criticism from voting rights groups in Texas.

“What is missing from this announcement is the typical language that you normally hear from elected leaders, which is celebrating the fact that people can vote, and encouraging people to vote and even providing basic information about how to vote,” says James Slattery, senior attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Slattery says the new unit furthers Paxton’s efforts to undermine trust in elections and discourage voting.

“It is particularly troubling with this attorney general, who has a long record now of abusing the power of his office to spread conspiracy theories about voter fraud and intimidate voters, especially people of color.”

Paxton is a close political ally of former President Donald Trump and unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the results of the 2020 election that Trump lost. A U.S. House committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, is examining communications between Paxton and Trump administration officials in the months leading up to the insurrection. Paxton spoke at Trump's rally in Washington, D.C., that day, before a violent mob, prompted by false voter fraud claims, attempted to stop Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden as the next president.

Trump has endorsed Paxton in his bid for reelection next year. He’s facing several Republican primary opponents, including Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former Texas Supreme Court justice Eva Guzman.

Joseph Leahy anchors morning newscasts for NPR's statewide public radio collaborative, Texas Newsroom. He began his career in broadcast journalism as a reporter for St. Louis Public Radio in 2011. The following year, he helped launch Delaware's first NPR station, WDDE, as an afternoon newscaster and host. Leahy returned to St. Louis in 2013 to anchor local newscasts during All Things Considered and produce news on local and regional issues. In 2016, he took on a similar role as the local Morning Edition newscaster at KUT in Austin, before moving over to the Texas Newsroom.