The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Austin, August 25 – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a major opinion on Monday, August 22, 2022, that outlines the formal process for a legislator or a member of the public to inspect or obtain copies of Texans’ anonymous voted ballots. By doing so, the opinion establishes a crucial new tool in the fight for free and fair elections and should boost confidence in Texas’s elections and promote transparency in government, while upholding voters’ constitutional right to a secret ballot.
Anonymous voted ballots protect voter secrecy by having their individual voter information redacted in accordance with Texas’ “open government” laws.
As Attorney General Paxton’s recent successful prosecution of vote fraudsters proves, the work to fully secure our elections remains among the most important work of the Attorney General’s Office.
“The people of Texas deserve to have leaders who work tirelessly to promote transparency in government and integrity in our elections, and that’s exactly what I continue to do,” said Attorney General Paxton. “This opinion will help create new processes that can be used to verify our elections have been conducted fairly and without any fraud. My office continues to lead from the front in the battle for election integrity, and we won’t back down until our elections are completely and totally secure.”
Following both the Texas Constitution and the requirements of the Texas Election Code, the opinion outlines the legal framework needed for the Secretary of State and the election records custodian to work together in achieving both ballot preservation and public access to anonymous voted ballots.
“Anonymous voted ballots are election records under the Election Code, and the Legislature has established procedures aimed at both preserving those records and granting public access to them,” the opinion states.
State Senator Kelly Hancock, Republican of North Richland Hills who is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs & Border Security Committee, and State Representative Matt Krause, Republican of Haslet who is Chairman of the House Committee on General Investigating Committee, requested the opinion.
A full summary of the opinion, KP-0411, follows:
“Anonymous voted ballots are election records under the Election Code, and the Legislature has established procedures aimed at both preserving those records and granting public access to them.
“Section 66.058 of the Election Code requires the anonymous ballots to be held in a locked ballot box during a 22-month preservation period, with entry only as authorized by the Election Code. Section 1.012 establishes these ballots as public information and requires the election records custodian to make the ballots available to the public. By expressly requiring the custodian to provide public access to such records, the Legislature authorized entry into the locked ballot box for such purpose during the 22-month period. Thus, members of the public and legislators may inspect or obtain copies of anonymous voted ballots during the 22-month preservation period.
“Personally identifiable information contained in election records that could tie a voter’s identity to their specific voting selections is confidential and excepted from public disclosure. Any confidential information on an anonymous voted ballot must be redacted for purposes of disclosure in order to protect the constitutional right to a secret ballot.
“The Election Code authorizes the Secretary of State and election records custodians to establish procedures to accomplish the dual priorities of ballot preservation and public access to anonymous voted ballots.”
General Paxton’s Opinion provides an important tool for the citizens to monitor, with detailed scrutiny, Texas elections.