LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - A Gregg County commissioner arrested in connection to an alleged vote harvesting scheme will stay in office for the time being, according to Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt.
According to the Gregg County District Attorney’s Office, Gregg County commissioner Shannon Brown, Marlena Jackson, Charlie Burns, and DeWayne Ward were arrested. A press release said to increase the pool of ballots needed to swing the race in Brown’s favor, the group targeted young, able-bodied voters to cast ballots by mail by fraudulently claiming the voters were “disabled,” in most cases without the voters' knowledge or consent. Under Texas election law, mail ballots based on disability are specifically reserved for those who are physically ill and cannot vote in-person as a result.
“One race here, one race there, and before you know it, it can really have a big effect," said State Senator Bryan Hughes.
Sen. Hughes is one of the lawmakers who requested a joint investigation involving the Gregg County District Attorney’s Office, the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas Attorney General, into the 2018 Democratic Primary Election for Pct. 4 commissioner between Kasha Williams and Shannon Brown.
“When the numbers came out there was some raised eyebrows,” Sen. Hughes said. "Because, the in-person voting, both early vote and election day, had one candidate winning it 60/40. But there was an extraordinarily high number of mail ballots, more than all the other precincts combined, many a couple times over, and those ballots all went the other way, enough to throw the election.”
According to the DA, more than 360 mail-in ballots were requested in Pct. 4 claiming voter disability. While Williams led Brown by more than 20 percentage points during in-person voting, 74% of the mail-in ballots were for Shannon Brown.
“The attorney general and sheriff, and district attorney interviewed hundreds of witnesses, and reviewed hundreds of documents, so the grand jury didn’t return these indictments lightly," Sen. Hughes said.
For now, Brown and the others are presumed innocent until proven guilty, meaning Brown is still the Pct. 4 commissioner.
“He’ll continue to serve as a commissioner until he goes to trial and depending on the outcome of the trial or disposition with the district attorney’s office, he’ll continue to serve as a commissioner," said Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt.
If Brown were to step down, someone else would be appointed to his seat.
The state filed 134 felony charges against the four defendants, including engaging in organized election fraud, illegal voting, fraudulent use of an application for a mail-in ballot, unlawful possession of a mail-in ballot, tampering with a governmental record, and election fraud. Penalties for these offenses range from six months in state jail to 99 years in prison.