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Montgomery County “voter fraud” case update

Glad to hear this. The whole case is ridiculous.

A self-described “egghead,” Jim Jenkins accomplished his dream by founding his own microsystems company. He also takes satisfaction in being a Christian conservative who is unabashedly proud of his 11 grandchildren.

At the same time, the 64-year-old Woodlands resident acknowledges being “bullheaded” and willing to risk it all in a court battle that he says is about voting rights. But state prosecutors contend its about illegal voting.

The stakes are high: If Jenkins loses the fight, he could go to prison for three years.

The story began five years ago when Jenkins and others became concerned that the Woodlands Road Utility District was spending millions of dollars on road improvements without “any voter oversight.” So he led a voter revolt to take over the district’s board and then dismantle the organization. But since he and nine cohorts did not live within the district’s boundaries, they changed their voting addresses to a motel that was inside the district. Their plan ended with Jenkins and some of the others being convicted in 2013 for the felony of illegal voting.

Yet now Jenkins has scored his own legal victory, as the 14th Court of Appeals reversed his conviction and sent his case back to be retried.

“At the start I was offered probation, but I wouldn’t take it because I’m not guilty,” said Jenkins, a father of three who holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Rice University. “My motto is, ‘If you’re right, you fight.’ ”

Jenkins’ case reflects the strong opinions over roads and taxes in the politically conservative Woodlands, as well as uncertainty over the residency requirements of Texas’ election laws.

He is one of only a dozen people in the past decade to be prosecuted by the Texas attorney general for illegal voting and to receive a prison sentence, with most of those sentences amounting to days – not years, records show. Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott tweeted of Jenkins’ sentencing by a jury: “Another Voter Fraud Conviction leads to prison.”

[…]

Since the district’s creation in 1991, it has widened most of The Woodlands’ major arteries, added turn lanes, constructed bridges and improved signalization, said Mike Page, the road district’s attorney.

But Jenkins is disgusted by the district’s “spider web” boundaries that run and skip along thoroughfares to take in 2,475 acres of commercial properties. This includes entities such as Anadarko, Chevron Phillips and The Woodlands Mall while excluding all residential areas.

Jenkins contends that such gerrymandering is “disenfranchising” the public because residents have no vote or say on how the roads are developed. Although the commercial entities pay the property tax – 35 cents per $100 of assessed value – Jenkins believes that many of the costs associated with the projects eventually get passed onto residents.

To rectify the problem, Jenkins and nine cohorts decided to try to win a majority of seats on the road district board, which then had five members whom they believed had become too cozy with the community’s developers.

They then would pay off the debt, turn off the lights and shut the district down.

However, the road district’s elections are not typical by any measure.

Commercial business owners and their employees cannot vote. And although those filing to run as a board member do not have to reside inside the district, only those who claim a residence within its boundaries can cast ballots. And the district has virtually no residential areas.

“Last time I checked, the district had only four registered voters,” said Page, the attorney for the road district. “There’s a man, his wife and daughter living in an apartment attached to a building that’s inside the district. That homeowner, Dirk Laukien, was granted special permission for a residence in a commercial zone. He travels a lot. Then the fourth voter is the manager of Marriott’s Residence Inn who lives on the premises.”

Read the whole thing, it’s good stuff. I’ve noted this case before, and had a couple of conversations with Jenkins’ co-defendant, Adrian Heath. We’ve basically established that there’s no enforceable standard of residency for candidates, so it’s really unclear why the book was thrown at these guys. In searching for an image to use with this post, I came across this site that was put up in support of Jenkins et al. The base domain name and some of the links don’t work any more, but click around, there’s a lot of useful background on this case, which to my mind is more about Greg Abbott claiming a “vote fraud” scalp that didn’t involve Democrats of color than anything else. See also the Texas Election Law Blog, whose proprietor is a supporting player in this drama. I’m glad that Jenkins got a new trial, and I wish him and his co-defendants the best of luck in beating the rap.

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5 Comments

  1. voter_worker says:

    One might surmise that the defendants were prosecuted because they stepped on the toes of some people who have the power to retaliate in this fashion. The problem with the concept of residency in Texas is that its vagueness really doesn’t matter, until a case arises in which it does, or might, matter. Since the defendants’ intent was to influence the outcome of the election and therefore the subsequent policies and actions of the district, the idea that those who stood to be negatively impacted would retaliate isn’t far-fetched. Most voter registration anomalies of this nature (and they are in the thousands) remain obscure and uncontested because they have no measureable effect on election outcomes. In the rare instances when they do have either a real or suspected impact, they tend to be examined more closely, as they were in this case.

  2. John Smith says:

    I need to get into contact with Jim Jenkins, or you this story goes deeper than you think it does.

  3. Adrian Heath says:

    Appreciate the positive write up here by Charles.

    John,

    Interested to hear what you have to say, Jim and Adrian can be contacted at cronyism@governorabbott.org

    thanks

  4. new domain name – governorabbott,org will point there too.

  5. byron schirmbeck says:

    Good news for you guys. Abbott and the Montgomery county GOP mafia are the ones that went after them for daring to do something about a runaway crony capitalist scheme. That combined with Abbott needing to prosecute white conservative guys to balance his numbers of prosecutions of Democrats he went after. Adrian has a very interesting document showing hundreds if not thousands of registered voters at county and state buildings you should see.