Arrested Republican poll watcher accused Travis County Clerk of election violations

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — It took 24 hours from the time a Travis County deputy marched Jennifer Fleck out of the county clerk’s office until she would enjoy her freedom again.

Fleck was assigned to poll watch at the Central Count Station on Nov. 2, but left in handcuffs charged with criminal trespassing. While inside the clerk’s office, Fleck called 911 to report what she believed were criminal violations of the Texas Election Code: obstructing poll watchers.

Travis County poll watchers are required to watch ballot counting and tabulations from a separate room, only seeing into the Central Count Station through windows. The clerk’s office calls that room the “media room.” The clerk’s office does not allow cameras into the media room to record what happens on the other side of the window.

Jennifer Fleck shows the document appointing her to serve as a poll watcher by the Travis County Republican Party for Nov. 2, 2020 at the Central Count Station inside the Travis County Clerk’s Office. (KXAN Photo/Jody Barr)

Fleck believed the clerk’s office was intentionally shutting poll watchers out of the ballot counting process. Doing so would be a violation of state law.

“I went in on Monday knowing that this was going on. I was expecting this exact scenario which had already been referred for criminal investigation,” Fleck told KXAN investigator Jody Barr. “My intent was to get it recorded to take pictures of what was happening and to make the situation public.”

Back in July, Fleck lost to Justin Berry in a runoff election for the Texas House District 47 race and was involved in a lawsuit to contest those results. The lawsuit contained multiple allegations of violations of the Texas Election Code against the Travis County Clerk’s Office, including calling the “into question the integrity of all elections in Travis County,” Fleck wrote in her lawsuit.

The lawsuit also contained allegations that multiple poll watchers were obstructed from performing their duties in the clerk’s Central Counting Station. Those same obstruction claims were made in a formal complaint to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office weeks before Fleck’s election contest was filed.

Poll watchers in the July 2020 runoff election argued the media room was designed to obstruct their participation in the ballot counting observation process. Those poll watchers filed a complaint with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office in July.

The Secretary of State’s Office reviewed the allegations and the poll watchers’ documentation supporting their claims and on Sept. 2, the SOS forwarded a formal request for a criminal investigation to the Texas Attorney General.

The attorney general would have jurisdiction to investigate and later prosecute such an offense.

Before Fleck called 911 to the Central Count Station on Nov. 2, she said she’d called the Travis County Republican Party’s legal team to report violations. The party’s attorneys called the Secretary of State to report Fleck’s concerns, then called Fleck to have her make a police report.

That’s when Fleck said she dialed 911.

Fleck said a Travis County deputy showed up about an hour later. But, the deputy never filed a report on the violations she reported, according to Fleck.

“He (the deputy) wasn’t really familiar with the election law and he wasn’t really familiar with what he was able to do. So, Travis County election officials took the sheriff inside their offices away from me,” Fleck recalled. “About 30 minutes later he returned and told me that we needed to file a complaint with the Secretary of State, which we’ve already done and nothing came of it. And, during that conversation is when the Travis County employees became aware that I was taking pictures and that I was using my phone and so that’s when they asked me to leave.”

“And, I refused to leave and ultimately I was arrested for criminal trespass,” Fleck told KXAN.

Fleck had also taken the step to wear a hidden camera into the media room. Since July, Fleck has openly criticized the way Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir sequestered poll watchers.

Fleck and other Republican poll watchers have complained that the room the clerk is using to sequester poll watchers doesn’t allow the watchers to witness each step of the ballot tabulation and counting process.

Jennifer Fleck provided a copy of her poll watcher affidavit to KXAN showing a section prohibiting the operation of audio and visual recording devices while serving as a poll watcher. (KXAN Photo/Jody Barr)

Fleck, an attorney, decided to photographically document the room and exactly what poll watchers could — and could not — see and hear from inside the room. She decided to wear a body camera and used her cell phone to take photographs of what the poll watchers assert is a crime in Texas: obstructing poll workers.

“To be honest, I was just — I’m really frustrated with the fact that there is no recourse for illegal activity and our votes in Travis County are not being protected,” Fleck said.

“So, this person Dana DeBeauvoir, the Travis County Clerk, is allowed to continue her criminal behavior on an ongoing basis in every election and our votes aren’t protected and so I took measures that aren’t typical because I wanted to record it because I want something done about it,” Fleck said.

Fleck acknowledged she violated the provision in her poll watcher affidavit requiring her to “disable” any “type of mechanical or electronic means of recording images or sound while serving as a watcher at this precinct or I will disable the device while serving as a watcher,” the affidavit states.

Fleck said she’s willing to face the consequences of violating that provision. She has not been charged with a crime related to the recording.

“I want to prove that it was happening and I wanted to prove to Travis County voters that it was happening. I feel like I’ve tried every other way. I’ve filed a complaint with the Secretary of State, I’ve contacted the Texas AG, I’ve made other voters aware,” Fleck told KXAN in a Nov. 4 interview at her Spicewood home. “I feel like I had done everything I could that a typical person’s actions that they would take, and so I was willing to go a step further.”

“Dana has no comment,” DeBeauvoir’s executive assistant, Victoria Hinojosa, texted Barr on Nov. 4 when asked whether the clerk would discuss what happened that led up to Fleck’s arrest.

Earlier, the clerk refuted claims that her media room was obstructing poll watchers’ right to participate in the electoral process.

“Everything — from when they’re brought in, checked off the list, you can see the information on the wall that says what’s come in, what hasn’t. The part where it’s opened up, the part where it’s run through the scanners and then the part it’s air-gapped, the second part where it’s run through the accumulators and the results are produced. They can see that entire process,” DeBeauvoir told KXAN in an interview just two hours before Fleck was arrested.

Jennifer Fleck was booked into the Travis County Jail on Nov. 2 on a charge of criminal trespassing after Fleck said she refused to leave her poll watcher post after a poll worker accused Fleck of “being disruptive,” according to a sheriff’s department affidavit. (Travis County Sheriff’s Office)

DeBeauvoir defended the media room, calling it “a premier spot” and “probably the best in the whole state.”

“I am fully aware of everything that went on regarding them and there is no substance to their complaint and if you were in the room, you would say the same thing,” DeBeauvoir said of the July 2020 poll watchers’ complaint.

On Nov. 2, we found the media room inside the clerk’s office and photographed it from a public walkway inside the county’s Airport Boulevard offices. Fleck was standing inside the room with other poll watchers when we found the room. DeBeauvoir was also inside the room at the time.

Fleck was arrested about 90 minutes after we showed up to the room. She told KXAN she would do it all over again to document what she believes proves the violations.

“Again, my goal is that the Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir will conduct elections legally. So, do I regret what I did? No. However, I’m still wanting recourse for voters so that we can get a legal election,” Fleck said.

“I think the video will show all the things that I’ve just described, which is the reason that I wanted to make a recording, because they’re lying and they’re not being transparent. If they have nothing to hide, then let us in, let us do our job. Let us do what we’re supposed to do under the code. They say that they want to be transparent, but nothing about that process was transparent.”

Fleck was freed on $1,000 bond on Election Day. Her first court date is set for Nov. 24.

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