Texas GOP leaders tried to expel voting precincts from Democratic county in alleged election rigging

At 9:38 a.m. on April 21, a hidden key fob on the underside of the voting booth of the small Texas town of Bonham booted Democrats from the polling place.

The move sparked outrage and, within hours, an investigation by the state’s Republican Party that cast suspicion on the local GOP chairman, Scott MacCurdy. As part of the investigation, the FBI executed a search warrant on the Bonham office of the chair of the local Republican Party, Sam Richardson.

Mr. MacCurdy called it a “cleaning up operation.” But the Texas Democratic Party is crying foul.

The petition to place an appeal into the case in a Dallas County district court alleges that the decision to boot the Democrats was made by another local Republican, Bessie Sheffield, chair of the Bonham Republican Committee, with the approval of Mr. Richardson. There is no listed address for Ms. Sheffield, but at least one phone number, for someone with the name Bernice Hawley, belongs to Ms. Sheffield, and during one conversation, she referred to Ms. MacCurdy by his first name, Keith.

“Ms. Sheffield apparently used the opportunity to call Mr. MacCurdy and ‘plant the bug’ on him,” the petition states. “Why the investigation had to take place is because of the curious circumstances surrounding this attempt to take down a principled Republican who fought against partisan bickering and was willing to place party over party. This was not ‘getting’ a thumb, it was an attempt to destroy Mr. MacCurdy.”

Documents submitted in court for the indictment also show that the majority of the Bonham Republican Committee is represented by the same lawyer, S. Austin Keys, who also represents Dallas County Republican Party.

“All together, in 2012, there were 24 members of the Bonham Republican Committee. There are currently five,” the petition states. “This is a violation of state law.”

Mr. MacCurdy, who had been at the polling place to cast his vote for Dan Patrick, a Republican governor nominee, defended the Democratic failure to show up as a mistake rather than a conspiracy.

“I just learned about the tidbit of information but let me tell you I have no idea who is claiming responsibility,” Mr. MacCurdy told The Texas Tribune. “I think that was just human error. Everyone is working their ass off to get everybody out to vote in Bonham. We can’t get every vote out.”

And the sheriff of Dallas County has said that it was a “shame and disappointment” that Ms. Sheffield was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, though she acknowledged some evidence of “political motives.”

“It’s very clear political motives are used in an attempt to purge Democratic precincts in Bonham,” said Sheriff Lupe Valdez. “That’s a shame and disappointment but we are in a primary and we need the best in our system to get out there and campaign.”

According to the Texas Democratic Party, Ms. Sheffield was also involved in a push to try to rig the 2016 Democratic caucuses in its favor.

Ms. Sheffield did not respond to several requests for comment.

Read the full story in The Texas Tribune.


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