AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline)-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has agreed not to target people who collect others' mail-in ballots for them as part of a settlement with the Texas Democratic Party.
The settlement, hammered out Wednesday, between the state Democratic Party and the Republican attorney general averts a trial that was set to begin in U.S. District Court before Judge T. John Ward. The lawsuit was filed in 2006.
In a statement, Abbott said the settlement "marks an important victory for the integrity of the electoral process," adding that "Election fraud is a serious crime that undermines our democratic system of government."
The settlement would prevent "overreaching political activists from unlawfully applying pressure to mail-in ballot users," he said.
The Democrat Party had accused Abbott of targeting voters in minority communities. They said that Abbott's efforts to crackdown on voter fraud focused on those who helped elderly and infirmed voters to fill out or mail their absentee ballots.
"Through this settlement the attorney general has conceded that he was prosecuting people improperly, and he has agreed to guidelines that will prevent prosecution and investigation of individuals for simply assisting their neighbors in voting," said Matt Angle, founder of the Lone Star Project, a group that supports electing Democrats in Texas.
Critics, including Angle, point to the fact that in the last two years the attorney general's office has prosecuted 26 voter fraud cases, all against Democrats, who, in most cases, were collecting and mailing legitimate ballots for others.
"Here, you had a group of plaintiffs courageously stand up against the highest legal authority in the state of Texas and make their case and the attorney general blinked," Angle told Legal Newsline.
"Greg Abbott has used the official resources of his office to systematically attempt to intimidate and suppress voters" to thwart a "Democratic resurgence in Texas," Angle said.
The state claimed that those prosecuted failed to properly sign the mailing envelope as required by Texas law.
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.