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On July 29, three of the 57 quorum-busting Democrats of the Texas House testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, a continuation of their efforts to push Congress to pass federal protections for voting rights.
For nearly four hours, state Reps. Senfronia Thompson of Houston, Nicole Collier of Fort Worth and Diego Bernal of San Antonio were praised by some members of the subcommittee for taking a stand against Republicans’ voting legislation, and grilled by others.
U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Hays County, was among those doing the grilling. Roy isn’t a member of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, but had received permission to attend the hearing and ask questions.
"Great to see my colleagues from Texas, although I wish it were under slightly different circumstances. Obviously, I think that you guys should be in Austin, Texas, performing those duties," Roy said.
He then proceeded to quiz the trio of state legislators on a variety of voting law specifics, asking them to answer in a yes or no fashion. One of those questions centered on the past remarks of one of their colleagues, state Rep. Rafael Anchía, D-Dallas.
"In 2007, your colleague, who also happens to be here in D.C., Rafael Anchía said, ‘Vote by mail that we know is the greatest source of voter fraud in this state.’ Do you agree with Rep. Anchía, yes or no?" Roy asked.
Bernal threw up his hands. "I have nothing to base the fact that the greatest source of voter fraud is by mail," he said.
Roy pointed the question at Collier. "I’m not sure what the context was," Collier said.
State Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, an architect of the Republican voting legislation, also cited the quote in a clip circulated on Twitter.
A major provision of Republicans' legislation tightens restrictions and increases requirements related to mail-in voting in two ways. It would ban county election officials from sending unsolicited mail-in voting applications to eligible registered voters and it would add new ID requirements to vote-by-mail applications.
In the clip, Anchía is speaking in 2007 against House Bill 218, one of the Legislature’s first attempts to pass a voter ID law to combat allegations of widespread voter impersonation. (That bill was defeated in the Senate that year, although a similar voter ID bill was resurrected and passed four years later.)
The quote comes from remarks Anchía made on April 23, 2007, in which he was attempting to dissuade his colleagues from voting for the bill. According to Anchía, the bill suffered two weaknesses: it had no protections against people using false IDs, and it allowed vote-by-mail to continue without proof of identification.
"Vote by mail, that we know, is the greatest source of voter fraud in this state. In fact, all of the prosecutions by the attorney general — I shouldn’t say all, but a great majority of the prosecutions by the attorney general occur with respect to vote by mail," Anchía said in 2007.
Cain posted the clip to his Facebook and Twitter pages July 22. Roy cited it in the congressional hearing one week later.
"Remember when TX State Rep. @RafaelAnchia admitted that vote-by-mail was ‘the greatest source of election fraud’ in Texas," Cain tweeted. "Now he’s in DC pretending that election fraud is a myth."
Anchía’s office didn’t respond to interview requests, so we turned to his Democratic colleague and ally, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston — who remained in Texas for medical reasons while his fellow Democrats flew to D.C. — to get a sense of what Anchía was basing his claim on.
"Maybe he didn’t know what he thought he knew," Coleman said. "He may be overstating this idea that there was a lot of mail-in ballot fraud."
Election fraud data obtained from the Texas attorney general’s office through a request under the Texas Public Information Act affirms Anchía’s 2007 statement that mail-in ballot fraud was the greatest source of voter fraud in the state. But the data also shows that voter fraud cases are exceedingly rare, both in 2007 and in the years since.
For elections between 2004 and 2007, the attorney general’s office convicted 33 people of 163 voter fraud charges out of the tens of millions of ballots cast in the primary and general elections during those years. About 140 of those charges, or 85%, involved mail-in voter fraud.
The proportion of mail-in ballot fraud among all voter fraud offenses through 2020 has decreased since then. According to the data, 58% of the 534 charges stemming from elections since 2004 involved mail-in voter fraud.
"If we can agree that this is the greatest source of fraud — as Anchía did, then it's reckless to expand it in ways that make it harder to detect. If we do that, we only create further distrust in elections," Roy told PolitiFact. "If a store owner who says, ‘We never sell alcohol to minors’ never checks IDs, how much faith can we put in that statement?"
The cases the attorney general’s office has prosecuted are the result of ongoing crackdowns on voter fraud over the last 15 years — during the tenure of Gov. Greg Abbott as attorney general and current Attorney General Ken Paxton.
In 2005, for instance, Abbott used part of a $1.4 million federal crime fighting grant to establish a voter fraud unit within his attorney general’s office. One year later, the task force brought charges against 11 individuals. One involved a person illegally casting a ballot, the others involved people assisting seniors in casting mail-in ballots, according to the Lone Star Project.
In 2020, Paxton beefed up the voter fraud unit by dedicating more than 22,000 staff hours to voter fraud cases that year, doubling the time the office spent working on fraud cases in 2018, according to the Houston Chronicle. The result was 16 prosecutions, all involving Harris County residents who gave false addresses on their voter registration forms.
According to Ed Martin, a political strategist and former executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, the mounting resources invested in finding voter fraud over the years versus the few cases prosecuted shows Republicans’ underlying agenda.
"The consistent context has been an unrelenting national vote suppression agenda that is based on bogus fraud claims that are not supported by facts on the ground in Texas," Martin said.
And to Coleman, the attorney general’s recent efforts to find voter fraud cases is an attempt to bolster former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was rigged against him.
"This is all about keeping Trump voters believing that the election was stolen," said Coleman. "They wouldn't have to say that there 'are more than 100 (fraudulent ballots). That's enough. People will believe it was stolen."
Speaking during an Aug. 1 rally outside the Texas Capitol, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, framed the rationale behind Republican’s voting legislation, which he authored, this way:
"The other side, they used to say, ‘There’s no evidence of voter fraud.’ And so we showed them evidence, and then they started saying, ‘Well, there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud.’ And our question to them has been, how much fraud is okay?" he said.
During a congressional hearing, Roy claimed that Anchía, a Democratic Texas House member currently breaking quorum in Washington, said in 2007 that mail-in ballot fraud "is the greatest source of voter fraud in this state." Anchía is one of 57 Texas Democratic lawmakers breaking quorum in order to block passage of a GOP voting bill, which includes new restrictions and requirements for mail-in voting.
Roy is correct. Anchía gave those remarks while speaking in opposition to a voter ID law in 2007, making the point that lawmakers should be focusing on fraud stemming from mail-in ballots rather than voter impersonation.
Anchía’s statement is correct too. As of 2007, about 85% of voter fraud cases involved mail-in-ballot fraud. About 58% of voter fraud cases since 2005 involve mail-in ballot fraud. But the total number of prosecutions are minuscule compared to the tens of millions of votes cast in the last 15 years.
We rate Roy’s claim True.
Tweet, U.S. Rep Chip Roy, July 29, 2021
Austin American-Statesman, Three quorum-busting Texas Democrats testify before U.S. House panel, July 29, 2021
House Committee on Oversight and Reform, HEARING: Democracy in Danger: The Assault on Voting Rights in Texas, July 29, 2021
Lone Star Project, Texas AG Wastes Crime Fighting Funds on Ineffective Biased Program, May 18, 2006
Austin American-Statesman, Republicans counter Willie Nelson, Beto O'Rourke rally to support Texas Democrats in D.C., July 31, 2021
Houston Chronicle, Ken Paxton's beefed-up 2020 voter fraud unit closed 16 minor cases, all in Harris County, Dec. 21, 2020
PolitiFact Texas, Light a match to Greg Abbott's ridiculous claim about 'rampant voter fraud', March 17, 2016
House Research Organization, HB218: Requiring voters to present proof of identification, April 23, 2007
House Journal, April 23, 2007
Interview with Rep. Garnet Coleman, Aug. 4, 2021
Emails with political strategist Ed Martin, Aug. 5, 2021
Email with U.S. Rep Chip Roy spokesperson Nate Madden, Aug. 6, 2021
Texas Sen. Bryan Hughes remarks, July 31, 2021
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