East Texas lawmaker files bill targeting prosecutors who decline taking on election crimes

ACLU of Texas says bill would expand Ken Paxton’s power and should be rejected
While State Representatives Bryan Slaton and Keith Bell believe the bills should become law, others say they tackle problems that don't exist.
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 6:50 PM CST
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AUSTIN, Texas (KLTV) - A bill filed by an East Texas lawmaker would give the Texas attorney general more power to prosecute election crimes.

State Rep. Bryan Slaton represents Hopkins, Hunt, and Van Zandt counties. Among the legislation he hopes to push through this session, a bill allowing the Texas attorney general to step in if a local prosecutor declines to prosecute a violation of election law.

“I feel like it’s becoming more and more of a problem where we see, mainly in the larger counties, the DA is basically saying we’re not going to do this,” Slaton said.

When asked what prompted the bill, Slaton pointed to some of the state’s largest and bluest counties, Dallas and Harris.

Slaton’s bill also would allow for prosecutors to be removed from office if found guilty of ignoring election laws.

“I wanted to provide an incentive to follow the law,” he said. “And if there are no election issues, problems, fraud, or whatever, then there’s nothing to worry about.”

Organizations like the ACLU argue Slaton’s bill would offer AG Ken Paxton power that the state’s highest criminal court previously ruled he doesn’t have.

“These bills are simply an effort to expand the AG’s power in response and would likely be unconstitutional because the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in this lawsuit, Texas vs. Stevens, was very clear that the attorney general does not have this power under the constitution,” said attorney Ashley Harris with the ACLU of Texas.

Harris said Slaton’s bill and any others trying to expand the AG’s power should be rejected.

“Texas voters just need don’t need the attorney general to be trying to expand his power in an unconstitutional way like this to keep trying to intimidate voters by trying to increase the criminalization of voting,” Harris said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A title in the attached video improperly identified Rep. Bryan Slaton as Ashley Harris. This resulted from a system graphic malfunction. We apologize for the error.