Greg Abbott’s Woodlands “voter fraud” adventure: Is criminal prosecution the best way to clarify ambiguous law?

Image credit: Pixabay

Steve Miller, who covered the shenanigans of the Woodlands Road Utility District extensively for Texas Watchdog, had a long piece in this week’s Houston Press on Attorney General Greg Abbott’s pursuit of “voter fraud” charges against those individuals who decided to use the vagueness of Texas voter residency requirements to try to bring some accountability to a quasi-governmental organization.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Attorney General’s Office contends that [The Woodlands activists] intentionally changed their addresses and claimed false residency for political gain, with no intention of living in a hotel. They all had homes elsewhere, some with mortgages, where they had their possessions and spouses.

“It seems strange that we could go to prison and no one would care,” said Heath, a salesman by trade who came to the United States in 1983.

“We’ve been abandoned by the people who go out and say they want more transparent government that is responsible to the people. I thought people from both sides of the political aisle would see this corporatist government using the system to enrich themselves and see us as people who stood up to it.”

Miller is a heck of a reporter, and this is a heck of a story (something that is altogether rare, even endangered, on the Village Voice Houston pages these days). We encourage readers to click over and give it a read.

There are ambiguities to the state’s election laws that could clearly use legislative clarification.

And that’s my issue with what has transpired here.

Is criminal prosecution of some clever (perhaps too clever) activists the best way to clarify ambiguities in the state’s election laws? Or, would it perhaps have been more prudent of the attorney general to have found a way to issue an advisory opinion on the matter? Or, since he is the frontrunner to become the next governor of Texas, use his campaign to raise awareness of the issue (and drive reforms)?

About Kevin Whited 4306 Articles
Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX


  1. Kevin,

    Who said that this prosecution had anything to do with bringing clarity to ambiguous Texas voter residency laws? The idea comes to mind that some people might benefit quite handsomely from voter residency laws being ambiguous. It also comes to mind that if voter residency laws are vague, then that gives the powers that are plenty of maneuvering room with which to beat the crap out of pesky peasants who might decide to get involved in politics.

  2. Neal: I think that’s a very good point indeed!

    Some small handful of folks in The Woodlands seem to have benefited quite nicely from this arrangement. I’m more than a little bothered that AG Abbott has effectively sided with them (for, perhaps, any number of reasons).

    And the proliferation of these largely unaccountable entities is an issue in itself (I think of the Montrose Management District as another one that Steve Miller was watching when he was mostly working here — apparently it cannot be killed either).

  3. What’s the statute of limitations on this? It would be terribly embarrassing if Mr. Abbot had to prosecute the 41st President of the United States who, as I recall, had his legal residence at a Texas hotel while actually residing in Washington, D.C.

    • 1991 was the year Steve Ogden authored HB 879, removing the word “permanent” from residence address on a voter registration application. Section 3 (b) of HB 879 reads:

      “The Secretary of State shall omit the term “permanent” preceding the term “residence address” on an official voter registration application form that is prescribed on or after the effective date of this Act.”


      Even the Montgomery County Election Administrator believed Jim Jenkins was eligible to vote in the RUD election. The Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon did not prosecute Jim Jenkins due the Texas Secretary of State Election Law opinion GSC-1, which includes “the presumption is in favor of the voters own assessment of the facts and his or her intent” and the nexus of including residence as a state of mind.


    Please help expose the ludicrous structure and developer oriented existence of the Woodlands Road Utility District #1 by filing for a position on the ballot with me this year. Any resident of the state over 18 yrs qualifies. No reqirement to live in the district for board members whereas the district is actually gerrymandered to preclude the involvement of voters in the community. I wish for 1000 applicants.

  5. When will Dirk and Kate Laukien, millionaires in the Woodlands, be prosecuted for changing their voting addresses to the Woodlands Railroad Utility District? It is evident to anyone with half a brain that former “representative” Tommy Williams used his political influence illegally to gain an indictment on James Jenkins and others. This was a political payback for James Jenkins and other exposing the Corruption in the Woodlands and around Texas.

Comments are closed.