Congressman, others urge feds to investigate Tarrant County judge over voting rights

Elected officials who represent Tarrant County’s minority communities have asked the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to investigate County Judge Tim O’Hare and other county officials over concerns that their actions will diminish voting rights.

The letter, signed by U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and six other Tarrant County area elected officials, cited the recent resignation of Tarrant County election chief Heider Garcia and the creation of an election integrity task force.

Veasey signed the letter with Tarrant County commissioners Alisa Simmons and Roy Brooks and state Reps. Nicole Collier, Ramon Romero, Chris Turner, and Salman Bohjani.

They ask that the Justice Department “promptly review this matter” and give them a written response about how the Civil Rights Division can “end the pattern in Tarrant County of voter intimidation and harassment.”

“As elected officials representing districts that are predominantly communities of color in Tarrant County, we are deeply concerned that recent actions by Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare and other county officials will further diminish the voting rights of those we represent and undermine their ability to freely and effectively participate in elections,” the letter states.

In his resignation letter, dated April 16, Garcia cited a meeting with O’Hare and differing ideas for running transparent elections as the reason for his departure.

In a section of the letter addressed to O’Hare, Garcia wrote that his “formula to ‘administer a quality transparent election’ stands on respect and zero politics” and that compromising on those values wasn’t an option for him.

“You made it clear in our last meeting that your formula is different, thus, my decision to leave,” Garcia wrote. “I wish you the best; Tarrant County deserves that you find success.”

At a True Texas Project meeting April 10, O’Hare told the crowd that he planned to have a “closed door executive session discussion” about the election administrator’s performance after May 6 municipal elections. The True Texas Project was the NE Tarrant Tea Party before it rebranded in 2019.

“This resignation is deeply troubling to us given the work Mr. Garcia has undertaken during his tenure to ensure elections are fair to all voters, including racial and ethnic minority voters, in Tarrant County,” the letter states. “Since 2020, Mr. Garcia has faced harassment and even death threats from groups that have denied recent election results, including ‘Citizens for Election Integrity’ and the ‘True Texas Project,’ which has been named as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. These actions are intended to intimidate Mr. Garcia and send a message to minority voters that if they participate in Tarrant County elections, they will face investigation and prosecution.”

In February, Republicans O’Hare, district attorney Phil Sorrells and Sheriff Bill Waybourn announced they had created an election fraud task force. During their campaigns, Sorrells had promised to create a unit and O’Hare pushed the idea of an elections officer position that would report to him, Wayborn and another commissioner.

They created the task force without Garcia, without Democrats and without notifying the Commissioners Court.

Simmons, a Democrat who represents Arlington and Mansfield, said at the time that the task force was nothing more than an attempt to appease “ultra-partisan election deniers within their party.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.