AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Congressman Michael McCaul and the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) announced this week the formation of the Election Protection Project, an effort to bolster ballot integrity in the Lone Star State and nationwide.
The goals of the project are to ensure proper identification is provided for in-person and mail-voting, strengthening vote-by-mail security, encouraging a better path of communication between state and county officials and ensuring maintenance of voter rolls.
“How can we ensure that we minimize the number of people on the lists who are either deceased or who moved out of state?” Chuck DeVore, TPPF’s vice president of National Initiatives asked rhetorically. “How can we ensure that the people on the list should be on the list — in other words — that they’re citizens and that they’re eligible to vote?”
“These are things that can always be improved,” he stated.
DeVore cited an indictment of a Limestone County social worker who was charged with more than 130 felony counts of election fraud and of purportedly acting as an agent. That situation at a Central Texas state supported living center shows vulnerabilities in the election process, DeVore claimed.
“It makes you wonder, ‘Well, okay, that’s the one that we caught, how frequently does this occur?'” DeVore said.
On voting by mail, there are differing opinions among county election officials.
“I honestly don’t know how much more you could do to strengthen by-mail voting,” Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said. “It is already very strong and has a lot of factors into it that you have to double check and triple check in order to participate.”
In Potter County, Elections Administrator Melynn Huntley said mail-in voting was critically important during the pandemic to protect voter safety, but she’s not sure what the future holds.
“In Texas, our vote by mail system is rather cumbersome, and I’m not positive that it’s scalable, to what is done in other states,” Huntley said. “So to in my mind, we either need to be at a vote-by-mail state or an in-person state.”
Where Huntley and DeBeauvoir definitively agree — they see a need to tackle misinformation.
“The number one place where voters are being harmed the most and the most vulnerable to outside interference, including state actors, is social media,” DeBeauvoir said.
Huntley also highlighted room for improvement with voter registration.
“One of our biggest challenges with registrations are applications that are turned in not completely filled out, or we can’t read the handwriting,” Huntley explained.
“Elections administrators in Texas have supported online voter registration for the last two sessions,” she added.
Progressive policy organization Progress Texas has efforted election measures at the state level, petitioning Texas to expand mail-in voting for all citizens. They, too, would like to see online voter registration.
“Texas is only a handful of states that doesn’t have online voter registration,” the group’s communications manager Wesley Story said. “We’re also going to continue to push for automatic voter registration.”
McCaul, a Republican for the 10th Congressional District of Texas, which covers parts of Austin and much of the region between Austin and Houston, was unable to schedule an interview for this report. In a statement, he said he was proud to lead the effort in Congress.
“It is my hope that with further investigation and legislative reform, we can have confidence in an election system. Improvements must be made so the United States can continue to set the standard of how to hold democratic elections,” he stated.