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Despite failures, Texas Republicans eye new voter fraud unit

“Voter fraud units” and “election integrity units” have failed wherever they've been tried. Texas Republicans are poised to repeat the mistake anyway.


Texas’ system of elections experienced no meaningful problems in 2020. Turnout was strong, despite the pandemic, and there were no questions about the integrity of the state’s results.

But as regular readers might recall, Republicans in the Lone Star State, fueled by nonsensical conspiracy theories and Donald Trump’s brazen lies, nevertheless got to work on an ambitious voter-suppression package. The “reforms,” among other things, banned drive-through voting, prohibited voting in overnight hours, empowered partisan poll watchers, and made it a felony in Texas for election officials to send unsolicited mail-in ballot applications to voters.

Two years later, the state held another set of elections, which also went fairly well — though not for those who struggled to cast ballots under new voting restrictions. Once again, Texas Republicans are responding to the lack of problems with unwelcome and unnecessary solutions. NBC News reported:

Texas Republicans are laying the groundwork to move quickly on a number of new changes to the state’s voting laws, including a proposal to create an election police force like the one Florida enacted before the 2022 midterms. ... Republican-authored Texas bills, such as HB 549 and SB 220, propose creating a system of state “election marshals,” who would investigate allegations of violations of election and voting laws and file criminal charges when warranted.

To be sure, these are not the only changes GOP officials in the state have in mind, but the proposals for voter fraud units stand out, in part because it’s so wildly unnecessary, and in part because the same unfortunate idea has failed elsewhere.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, Republicans in multiple states created “voter fraud units” and “election integrity units” in the wake of 2020 and the party’s “big lie.” The idea, of course, was to create law enforcement offices composed of investigators who would focus exclusively on election-related crimes.

Predictably, they’ve failed to produce evidence of a systemic problem because, as reality keeps reminding us, there is no systemic problem.

When Arizona Republicans created an election integrity unit, for example, the idea was to ferret out evidence of voter fraud in the state. It was a spectacular failure: As a Washington Post report summarized in September, over the course of three years, “a high-profile investigation team found little fraud, sapped government resources and deepened suspicions.”

And why, pray tell, did the absence of fraud “deepen suspicions”? Because of a ridiculous partisan dynamic:

  1. Republicans decided their bogus conspiracy theories about voter fraud were real.
  2. Republicans created election integrity units to find elusive evidence to bolster the conspiracy theories they already concluded were real.
  3. When investigators failed to uncover evidence that didn’t exist, Republicans assumed there must’ve been a problem with investigators and the election integrity units.

It’s like creating a government office specifically to hunt down Bigfoot, and when no creature is found, responding, “Clearly we need better Bigfoot hunters.”

Indeed, after watching the initiative fail in Arizona, Republicans elsewhere could’ve learned a valuable lesson. Instead, GOP officials in Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Virginia decided to make the same mistake.

And now, as 2023 approaches, Texas Republicans appear likely to do the same thing.