The Election Integrity Task Force was created by Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, County Judge Tim O’Hare and District Attorney Phil Sorrells during a meeting Feb. 8. It will consist of five positions: two criminal investigators and a criminal prosecutor from the District Attorney’s office alongside two criminal investigators from the sheriff’s office.
During a Feb. 21 meeting, O’Hare and Commissioner Manny Ramirez supported the task force, while Commissioners Alisa Simmons and Roy Charles Brooks did not. Commissioner Gary Fickes did not comment regarding his favor.
According to Waybourn, citizens have reached out to multiple departments and offices to handle election complaints. In previous years, the sheriff’s office would contact the Texas Attorney General’s Office to handle the complaints. However, as of 2022, the Criminal Court of Appeals stated the Attorney General’s Office was no longer authorized to prosecute cases.
The creation of the election integrity task force will provide a centralized system for election complaints to be investigated. Members of the task force will be made up of county personnel, and task force work will be part of their caseload, according to Waybourn.
Simmons requested the number of documented cases of voter fraud that warrant the creation of the task force. Waybourn did not have precise data on hand, but said 11 cases are under investigation. O’Hare added there are four cases being prosecuted from the 2016 election.
Fickes said he recalled the 2020 voting audit, in which Gov. Greg Abbott’s Secretary of State required four counties to submit their voting data to discover any discrepancies. Waybourn then confirmed there were virtually no discrepancies found in the audit for Tarrant County’s elections.
Ramirez acknowledged the seriousness of election laws, noting the 78th Legislature’s Senate Bill 1, which focuses on tighter election laws.
“We have to do our part," Ramirez said. "If the state Legislature is taking this [seriously], they’ve provided the framework [and] the roadmap for how these ought to be prosecuted. We have to be a willing partner."
Brooks did not support the creation of the task force, saying there was not a “demonstrable issue” with election integrity in Tarrant County. He also raised concerns about denying election results, citing the 2022 election outcomes.
“I am concerned we are enshrining in our Tarrant County infrastructure the ability to deny the results of any election that the three of you take exception to,” Brooks said, referring to O’Hare, Waybourn and Sorrells.
Waybourn told him the task force will be handling investigations of criminal activity and not canvassing elections.
“It has nothing to do with the conclusion of the election,” he said.
Waybourn also noted a previous task force between the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office back in 2018, which prosecuted one Republican judge.
Brooks then said he would be a watchdog over the task force and will need to seek legal advice to do so. According to him, the DA’s office has conflicted itself out of giving legal advice on the issue due to it being “part of a conspiracy.”
Simmons did not support the task force, noting the absence of data.
“There is not a need for an election integrity task force in Tarrant County," Simmons said. "Please show us the data that indicates such."
O’Hare stated his full support of the task force, citing multiple instances of election complaints. He said the task force will not disparage Tarrant County’s Election Department, but there are always ways to improve security and efficiency.
“We want to make sure people in Tarrant County believe the elections are secure and fair,” O’Hare said.
The discussion ended after more than 40 minutes of public comment, during which the majority of residents showcased their support of the task force.