AUSTIN (KXAN) – It took only a few weeks for the Texas Secretary of State to finish its review of poll watcher obstruction that happened during the November election in Travis County. The review ended with the SOS asking the Texas Attorney General Office for a “criminal investigation.”
“After review of the submitted documentation, we believe the information regarding the offenses warrants a submission for criminal investigation to the Texas Attorney General as the specific allegations described involve a potential misdemeanor offense,” Elections Director Keith Ingram wrote.
Ingram sent the AG a letter on Nov. 29 asking for the investigation into allegations Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir obstructed poll watchers.
This is the second referral from the SOS since September. In July, poll watchers made the same allegations against DeBeauvoir stemming from the July runoff election. The SOS referred those allegations to the AG for criminal investigation on Sept. 2.
The Secretary of State’s Office fields complaints concerning violations of the Texas Election Code but does not perform investigations. If the SOS determines further investigation is warranted, state law requires the SOS to request a formal criminal investigation to be performed by the AG.
Obstructing a poll watcher is a Class A Misdemeanor in Texas and a conviction carries up to a year in jail and fines up to $4,000.
“The complainant, Jennifer Fleck, alleges as a poll watcher she was obstructed from entering and completing her duties at the Travis County central counting station. Specifically, Ms. Fleck claims she was placed in a room on the other side of a wall with a glass window where central count was being conducted. From this room Ms. Fleck claims the poll watchers could not hear what was going on in the room where ballots were being counted through the DS200 machines. Additionally, election workers ignored the poll watchers when they tapped on the dividing window to ask questions,” Ingram’s letter stated.
DeBeauvoir denied allegations she obstructed poll watchers in either election in 2020.
“Nobody had any problems, and everybody loved our arrangement up until just this past year and suddenly it was a problem where poll watchers said they couldn’t see,” DeBeauvoir told Travis County Commissioners during a Nov. 12 meeting.
“The other Republican and Democratic poll watchers could see just fine and there were only two poll watchers who complained that they couldn’t see and then got other friends to pile on with them to create a complaint,” DeBeauvoir said dismissing the allegations against her.
Photographic evidence collected by Fleck during her poll watcher assignment inside the counting station showed poll watchers sequestered inside a media room. The room is separated from the counting station where elections workers were tabulating and counting ballots.
Large windows allow poll watchers to see inside the counting room, but many poll watchers we spoke with and interviewed said they could not see or hear any of the action on the other side of the wall.
“I was a poll watcher November 2nd and 3rd and I was also kept in what we call the media room,” Republican poll watcher Carla Birk told KXAN. Birk also served as a presiding judge on Nov. 6, 9 and again on Nov. 11.
“Were you unable to see certain aspects of tabulation counting in that room,” KXAN investigator Jody Barr asked Birk, “Yeah; we’re in a room and looking through a window and the equipment is anywhere from a few feet to up to like 20 feet or so—25 feet—away on other side of the room.”
“There were times that we could not hear at all. There is no speaker or when there was a speaker it was basically an iPhone sitting on a table in a room that’s maybe 20 by 25 feet and several people and machines,” Birk said. “So, trying to hear what people are saying is really difficult and definitely can’t see the reports they’re looking at or the counts on most of the screens at all.”
“It indicates that Dana DeBeauvoir the Travis County Clerk and her employees continue to break the law and continue to violate the Texas Election Code,” Fleck told KXAN in a Dec. 11 interview.
“I think it’s validation that that you know election laws have been violated. It’s very difficult to get the Texas Secretary of State to move on anything so they only refer violations of the Texas Election Code if there is a criminal investigation warranted,” Fleck said.
DeBeauvoir told commissioners during the Nov. 12 meeting that she would not interview with KXAN again about this. DeBeauvoir did not return a message asking for an interview and to allow us to photograph where she planned to position poll watchers when ballot counting for the December runoff starts Saturday morning.
The Travis County Republican Party filed a request with the Texas Supreme Court on Nov. 7 asking the court to force DeBeauvoir to stop sequestering and obstructing poll watchers. DeBeauvoir decided to settle the Republican Party threats to sue her over the sequestration.
In the settlement, DeBeauvoir agreed to not sequester or block poll watchers from being inside the counting station to see and hear vote counting.
Both Fleck and Birk told KXAN they’d been interviewed by the Attorney General’s Office’s lead investigator concerning the obstruction allegations. Fleck said interviews happened as recently as Dec. 9.