Democratic leaders from Tarrant County want the Department of Justice to investigate the actions of Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare and the county’s election integrity unit.
In a letter sent to the office of the U.S. Attorney General, US Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, asked Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke “to conduct a federal investigation into the County Judge’s actions to protect minority voters in Tarrant County from harassment and discrimination.”
Veasey, county commissioners Alisa Simmons and Roy Brooks and state Reps. Nicole Collier, Ramon Romero, Chris Turner, and Salman Bohjani — all Democrats — signed the letter, sent May 15. In it, they lay out concerns surrounding the creation of the task force and the subsequent resignation of election administrator Heider Garcia.
Four months after a trio of Republican leaders in Tarrant County — O’Hare, Sheriff Bill Waybourn and District Attorney Phil Sorrells — created an election integrity task force, the Democratic elected officials said they were worried that the task force and O’Hare’s conduct will frighten minority residents and keep them from exercising their right to vote.
“As elected officials representing districts that are predominantly communities of color in Tarrant County, we are deeply concerned that recent actions by Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare and other county officials will further diminish the voting rights of those we represent and undermine their ability to freely and effectively participate in elections,” the group wrote in its letter.
In a May 16 conversation on the conservative talk radio show, The Mark Davis Show, O’Hare addressed the letter. He defended the purpose of the Election Integrity Task Force, saying there are 52 pending cases being investigated by the task force.
O’Hare said no votes have been suppressed in Tarrant County and there has been no voter intimidation.
“At the end of the day this is what Democrats do,” O’Hare said on the show. “They try to get the federal government to try to come in and create a nanny state, run in and claim there’s something wrong. They literally can’t point to a single thing we’ve done to suppress the vote in Tarrant County.”
The letter also requests a written response outlining how the Department of Justice plans to “end the pattern in Tarrant County of voter intimidation and harassment.” The officials are concerned with the transparency in establishing the election integrity task force, and offered assistance to the DOJ to ensure voting rights are protected.
The letter was sent weeks after Garcia, Tarrant County’s election administrator, resigned from the county following a meeting with County Judge Tim O’Hare. In the letter, Garcia cited a conversation with O’Hare before his departure.
The letter sent by Veasey and others to the Department of Justice also mentions harassment and intimidation directed toward Garcia by local groups, including a group called Citizens for Election Integrity and the True Texas Project. O’Hare has previously spoken at True Texas Project events, including an April meeting where he said low voter turnout in local elections would help Republican candidates.
“County Judge O’Hare has consistently challenged Mr. Garcia’s efforts to uphold the integrity and racial fairness of our elections,” the letter reads. “Statements made leading up to the 2020 elections and the actions taken since then by the County Judge, the County District Attorney, and the County Sheriff appear to be designed to undermine and suppress minority voter participation in Tarrant County elections.”
County Commissioner Alisa Simmons released a statement on May 16 saying she hopes the DOJ will halt operations of the elections integrity task force.
“I’ve said this before: This is what you get when you have a county judge playing political
chess with our elections process,” Simmons said in the statement. “We don’t need voters to feel intimidated by this task force.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a statement from Alisa Simmons and Tim O’Hare.
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Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.
Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter.