Gregg County Pct. 4 mail ballot fraud probe drew Texas attorney general team to Longview

State Rep. Jay Dean, R-Longview, speaks in May at the Gregg County Courthouse as a team of local officials announces an investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s Office of a complaint of vote harvesting in Gregg County. The attorney general’s team quietly came into Longview during Thanksgiving week and again last week, according to Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano.

Investigators from the Texas Attorney General’s Office quietly descended on Gregg County during Thanksgiving week in their probe of possible mail ballot fraud in Pct. 4 during the March Democratic primary.

“They sent four (investigators), including a supervisor,” Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said Friday. “And, of course, as agreed, the sheriff’s office and the D.A.’s office provided additional resources to support the AG’s investigators that were here. They worked together.”

Cerliano said the AG’s team had been here the week of Thanksgiving.

“And then the investigators were here earlier this week,” he said Friday.

He referred questions about when the team might announce a conclusion to their probe to the AG’s office.

“I think they have a plan, and again, the resources that were provided locally were utilized,” Cerliano said. “They had some goals and objectives to achieve.”

The state’s detectives have looked into the mail ballots in Pct. 4 since the Rev. D.J. Nelson of Friendship Baptist Church filed a complaint on May 18. The Pct. 4 voter’s complaint centers on 787 mail-in ballots cast in the race for a Democratic nominee for Pct. 4 county commissioner between Kasha Williams and Shannon Brown.

Brown won the race by five votes, 1,047 to Williams’ 1,042. The mail-in ballots erased an approximately 19 percent lead Williams had in election day and early voting.

Williams subsequently filed an election contest challenging the vote count, but a judge threw it out on a technicality. Williams’ attorney had named five people he called vote harvesters, people who signed mailed ballots to indicate they’d assisted 226 disabled voters, out of the 787 mail-in ballots.

That unusually high number of people claiming disabilities to qualify for mail voting, along with the fact that more mail ballots were requested in Pct. 4 than the other three precincts combined, revived a long-told story of mail ballot fraud in the precinct.

Gregg County Elections Administrator Kathryn Nealy said in the weeks after the March 6 primary that the Pct. 4 mail-in ballots have long been suspect.

“They use this same group of people every election, because they get paid for it,” Nealy said last spring. “I can’t repeat the names, but there is an organized group out there who thinks that this is their job.”

On Friday, Nealy clearly had been silenced by the officials in town.

“I can’t tell you what’s going on,” she said. “I can’t tell you if I know or what I don’t know.”

County Judge Bill Stoudt said he had not been involved with the investigators during their time here.

“I have not seen them or talked to them,” he said.

Kayleigh Lavvorn, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, did not return a voicemail message Friday seeking any timeline the investigators might have for concluding the probe.

She previously declined to say whether the office is investigating the Gregg County mail ballots, despite the probe’s high-profile announcement on the Gregg County Courthouse steps last spring.