Texas Attorney General Appeals Ruling To Strip His Office of Authority to Prosecute Election Fraud
13:47 GMT 04.01.2022 (Updated: 15:22 GMT 04.01.2022)
Last December, Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals threw out a law allowing the attorney general to prosecute election cases unilaterally, pointing out that a provision of the legislation violates the "separation of powers" clause in the Texas Constitution.
Texas' Republican Attorney General, Ken Paxton, has appealed
a December 2021 court decision preventing his office from prosecuting criminal election law violations.
Filing a Motion for Rehearing with the Court of Criminal Appeals on 2 January, he urged it to reconsider its recent decision to strip the legislature of its power, granted approximately 70 years ago.
Paxton highlighted that the Texas Supreme Court had previously said that the ability of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to prosecute election law was consistent with the state's constitution.
Emphasising that this authority had made Texas elections “significantly safer and more secure” than other US states, Paxton wrote:
“The court’s decision suddenly to remove our authority to prosecute election fraud can only empower dishonest campaigns to silence voters across the state. This decision is not only wrong on legal grounds, it has the effect of giving district and county attorneys virtually unlimited discretion not to bring election law prosecutions.”
The Texas Attorney General
vowed he would continue to oppose a decision that “diminishes our democracy and misconstrues the Texas constitution”.
In his Monday statement, Paxton pointed to the 2020 presidential election as an example of the importance of prosecuting voter fraud. Texas officials had investigated claims of voting irregularities after former president Donald Trump claimed the election had been “rigged”
to favour his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
"Last year’s election cycle shows us that officials in our most problematic counties will simply let election fraud run rampant," said Paxton.
Mid-December 2021 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals determined in an 8:1 ruling
that the state's Attorney General does not, with few exceptions, have the authority independently to prosecute criminal cases such as those involving voter fraud. According to the ruling, a provision of the law violates the clause about separation of powers in the Texas constitution and “represents an intrusion by the executive branch into the judicial branch”.
In line with the decision, the attorney general can only be involved in a case with the “consent and deputisation order” of a district or county attorney.
At the time, Paxton, a Republican who has been on a crusade to root out voter fraud, tweeted that the ruling “could be devastating for future elections in Texas".
The provision invoked in the ruling was linked to a case involving Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens. When the county district attorney refused to prosecute Stephens over alleged 2016 election campaign-finance manipulations, Paxton's office sought an indictment from a grand jury in Chambers County.
Paxton tweeted that the ruling meant Democrat megadonor, George Soros-funded district attorneys “will have sole power to decide whether election fraud has occurred in Texas”.