AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On the first day of early voting in Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the formation of a 2021 Election Integrity Unit, which is charged with maintaining secure local elections in Texas.

Paxton’s office also set up a public email address Monday to document alleged violations of the Texas Election Code.

These violations include: 

  • Suggesting by word, sign or gesture how someone should vote. 
  • Voting by mail, if ineligible.
  • Accepting assistance with marking a ballot, if ineligible. 
  • A vote harvester collecting your ballot from you. 

According to the press release, the unit will dedicate agency lawyers, investigators, staff and resources to ensure “this local election season… is run transparently and securely.”

“The foundation of our constitutional republic is a secure and transparent ballot,” Paxton said. “It is why my office remains ever vigilant in defending the integrity of our elections. And it’s why I’m establishing a 2021 Texas Election Integrity Unit to monitor this season’s local elections — which, even though they’re local, must be run in accordance with state law.” 

Increasing election integrity has been a central focus of Paxton’s tenure. Currently, Paxton’s office is prosecuting 43 people for more than 500 pending offenses, according to his website.

A KXAN investigation last October found voter fraud complaints are rare, and it’s even less common for them to result in jail time. The vast majority of cases were settled through plea agreements with the attorney general.

Critics of Paxton’s election fraud crackdown, like Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, say it’s unnecessary and a waste of resources.

“We want to make sure that we have safe elections, that the license administrators have someone they can rely on to answer their questions, that the laws are followed,” Jenkins said. “But trying to politicize the process really does nothing but waste taxpayer money and resources.”

Jenkins, who serves as the chief election official in Dallas County, believes the efforts are really about ensuring Republicans continue to win elections. 

“They’re trying to come up with reasons to make it harder for people to vote, so that the people who are able to vote are people who agree with them,” he said. “And the people who are not voting are the people that don’t agree with them.”

State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth has criticized Paxton in the past but agrees with his latest initiative. It is important to note, Krause is running against Paxton for the Republican nomination for Texas Attorney General.

“Every measure we take, every step we can take to ensure that voting is secure, that voting is free from any kind of interference or fraud, that’s a good thing for the people of Texas,” Krause said. “… I think any time we can dedicating our time and resources to ensuring our election is free and fair, that’s a good thing.” 

In 2020 Paxton’s office was a national leader on this front, dedicating thousands of hours and resources to investigating fraud. Only 16 cases were prosecuted from the 2020 election, according to the Houston Chronicle

KXAN reached out to Paxton’s office for comment but did not hear back.