DALLAS – The Texas Attorney General’s office will join the Dallas County District Attorney’s office as it investigates allegations of voter fraud.
"We have been involved in this investigation for a while,” said Faith Johnson, Dallas County District Attorney. “So, we are taking the lead, so to the extent that we are still in charge, we're still taking the lead and the attorney general's office will be assisting us in any kind of way that we are in need of that assistance."
She made the announcement Wednesday afternoon with Attorney General Ken Paxton and top staffers from both agencies.
"Nothing is more sacred to our democracy than the integrity of our voting process. My office will do everything in its abilities to solidify trust in every election here and around the state of Texas,” said Paxton.
Neither Johnson nor Paxton took questions after the announcement, because the D.A. said it remains an ongoing investigation.
Later, the attorney general spoke to WFAA.
"It's really her investigation. We're just here to help her,” said Paxton. "We're just basically offering up our best and brightest from our office."
His office does bring more resources and experience to local prosecutors who have investigated abuse of absentee ballots since March. What exactly their role will be remains unclear.
Since March, WFAA has produced stories about voters who received a mail-in ballot but never requested one, dead people applying for absentee ballots, and voters showing up to the polls only to discover someone else has already cast a ballot in their name. A former campaign worker even alleged the corruption extends into the Dallas County Elections Department.
In a court filing this spring, county prosecutors said 700 mail-in ballots were suspicious from May’s municipal election.
Based on what he has seen so far, Paxton was asked whether he thinks laws were broken in Dallas County.
"I cannot comment on actual results of this investigation,” said the attorney general.
For more than a year, the Texas Attorney General’s office has investigated similar claims in Tarrant County, as well. Paxton was asked whether he expects indictments to be a result of that work.
"Again, I can't comment on specifics. I can just tell you that we're continuing to pursue that case," continued Paxton.
But the politics of this announcement are noteworthy. Faith Johnson is the only Republican official in a deeply Democratic Dallas County. Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, appointed her to fulfill the remaining term of Susan Hawk after she resigned for health reasons.
Republicans want Johnson re-elected and they want to make a statement that voter fraud really exists.
"I do think there are things we can do,” explained Paxton, a former state representative. “We need to look at our voting machines, we need to look at the whole process. We know through some of the work that you've done and some of the work that we've done that we do have an issue with voter fraud.”
How big of a deal is absentee voting fraud?
"I think it could be significant, and I think that's another area the legislature should definitely consider in the future," added Paxton.
Next month, the legislature will. A bill being written by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, and state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, will potentially strengthen penalties for voter fraud as this investigation continues.