Earlier today Houston Votes responded to the accusations lobbed at them by outgoing Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez. First, here’s their press release:
On Tuesday, August 24, Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Leo Vasquez made reckless and false allegations against Houston Votes in an apparently coordinated, partisan effort to suppress voter registration and to intimidate citizens into not voting. Sadly, this type of shameful tactic has worked all too well in the past. Houston Votes is committed to non-partisan voter registration and helping register the over 600,000 citizens eligible to vote who are not even registered in Harris County.
Fred Lewis, head of Houston Votes, said, “Those who propagate lies and distortions like those of Mr. Vasquez and his partisan allies are eroding our democracy, and we ask the Voting Rights Section of the Justice Department to immediately investigate and monitor his office and his radical allies.”
Mr. Vasquez’s histrionic complaints are false and defamatory. Houston Votes seeks to register as many Houstonians as are eligible, which Mr. Vasquez unfortunately sees as a “burden” and a threat. Rather than celebrate new registrants, Mr. Vasquez apparently intends to reduce his workload by intimidating people from registering. He and his staff are paid with taxpayer dollars to process voter registration cards. They should do their jobs without complaining or engaging in partisan, political activity.
The recklessness and falseness of Mr. Vasquez’s allegations, combined with his unprofessional and partisan actions, raise serious questions about his political motivations. Houston Votes is asking the Justice Department to investigate voting rights violations by Mr. Vasquez and his office through a political campaign to intimidate voter registration. The Registrar’s Office has a long history of voter suppression. We have reason to believe that his office is continuing its systematic practice of illegally not approving registration applications from eligible citizens despite public outcry and costly litigation.
Mr. Vasquez’s press conference, as part of his official non-partisan duties, was a political circus, with dozens of partisan operatives present. Mr. Vasquez appears to have abused the power of his office by collaborating with the King Street Patriots, a partisan organization that took credit for uncovering the “fraud” alleged against Houston Votes This political organization’s website states “that current political initiatives must be focused on mobilizing the conservative electorate”. It appears that Leo Vasquez openly coordinated with King Street Patriots to further personal political goals and retard the efforts of Houston Votes in registering people. He also appears to have shared legally confidential voter registration data with partisan political third parties, which is unlawful. Both activities warrant a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.
Here’s their detailed rebuttal to the allegations. The main points they make are that they had been working with Vasquez’s office to ensure they were complying with the law (here’s the letter they wrote to Vasquez and County Attorney Vince Ryan to set up one such meeting back in July); they had taken action every time an irregularity had been pointed out, including firing workers who were not doing things right; they had tried to contact Vasquez prior to his spectacle when they had heard rumors that he was unhappy with them, but he never called them back; and that Vasquez did not provide any corroborating evidence for the claimed numbers of questionable forms. I don’t recall seeing any reports of such corroboration in previous stories about Vasquez’s dog and pony show. Perhaps someone should have pressed him on that. We’ll see what Vasquez and his comrades have to say next. Neil, who was at this conference and another one held by the teabaggers, has more.