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DA gets 1,148 names to check in illegal-voting probe

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Mar 26, 2008.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl Do it for the Vine! Staff Member

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    Questionable cases arose from March 4 primary

    By CAROLYN FEIBEL
    Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

    Robert Duran Jr. said he walked into the wrong room to vote in the March 4 primary. But he said he should not be indicted for it.

    "It was an innocent mistake," said Duran, who works for an oil services company. "I just failed to read the sign."

    Duran's name appeared on a list of "questionable voting cases" released Tuesday by Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman. The 1,148 individuals may have voted illegally, Kaufman said. She turned the list over to the district attorney's office for investigation and possible indictment.

    Duran said he rushed to the polls after work, meaning to vote as a Republican. Duran was voting in his first primary, and he unthinkingly went to the same room he always does for general elections. But after Duran signed in the poll book and went to the booth, he saw the ballot had the names of the Democratic candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

    "I clicked on it and said, 'Whoa, this is not what I meant to do,' " Duran said.


    'An unusual election'
    Duran alerted a poll worker, who redirected him to another room, where Republican balloting was taking place. The poll worker told him the accidental ballot would be canceled out of the system.

    "They told me, 'Don't worry about it,' " Duran said.

    Kaufman said many voters may have made mistakes during the primary, which drew more than half a million voters, a record for a primary election.

    "This was an unusual election," Kaufman said. "We've had to submit cases to the DA before, but it's usually a handful, it's not 1,100."

    The list included two groups: 759 voters like Duran who appear to have voted in both the Democratic and Republican primaries. An additional 389 people appear to have voted during the early voting period, and again on election day.

    The intense campaigning in Texas, with slogans telling people to "vote twice" or do the "Texas two-step" may have confused people, Kaufman said.


    Some voter confusion
    The campaign slogans referred to the two-pronged electoral process — all-day primary voting followed by evening caucuses. Instead of voting once and then attending a caucus, some voters may have thought they could vote twice, Kaufman said.

    Knowingly voting twice is a third-degree felony, and the punishment could be two to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Merely attempting to vote twice is a Class A misdemeanor, which can bring up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

    The last time there was an indictment for voting violations was in 1999, according to Scott Durfee, an assistant district attorney in Harris County. The voter was acquitted at trial.

    The new list has been referred to the district attorney's Public Integrity Division, Durfee said. "We are going to review all the names in due course," he said.

    carolyn.feibel@chron.com

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