If you saw Don Lemon, Rachel Maddow, or the Texas Tribune talks about the Republican take over of Hood County Elections; you need to know it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
About a month ago, a friend of mine, who lives in Hood County, contacted me and told me about how the Republicans were trying to force the election administrator out for a partisan takeover of local elections. It’s dumb because Republicans won Hood County by 81%.
I started looking into the situation, and it is egregious, but there is much more to this story than Lemon, Maddow, or the Texas Tribune covered. And it all centers around the woman who started the Big Lie. Yes…THAT Big Lie. The Big Lie that Donald Trump won the election.
When my friend in Hood County told me what was happening last month, I watched their Election Commission meetings and started combing through Hood County Republican social media posts. There was a name in all of it that stood out.
Laura Pressley made multiple appearances with Hood County Republicans this last year, including only one month before they started calling for the elections administrator to be fired.
Pressley planted the seeds of doubt in their head and convinced Hood County Republicans that election fraud was happening in Hood County because ballots were randomly numbered instead of numbered consecutively. That’s when they started their witch hunt against Michele Carew, the Hood County Elections Administrator.
Republicans in Hood County have a Facebook show called the Blue Shark Show. Here is an episode from April, where they speak about how Laura Pressley spoke at a commissioner’s meeting and told them about the numbering of ballots.
As I watched the Election Commission meeting and the Blue Shark Show, it became clear that the reason why Hood County Republicans were forcing a partisan takeover of their County elections was because of what Laura Pressley told them.
Who exactly is Laura Pressley?
In May, earlier this year, the Washington Post published an investigative report about the origins of the Big Lie. At the center of it all…Laura Pressley.
Pressley was an ally of Russell J. Ramsland JR, a Dallas businessman and failed Republican candidate. Ramsland’s pitch was a claim that voting-machine audit logs contained indications of vote manipulation. An idea which he got directly from Laura Pressley, who happens to be another failed Republican candidate. Ramsland pitched one failed Republican candidate after another, trying to convince them to audit their failed elections. Every Republican turning him down until he made the connection with Trump allies.
According to WaPo’s investigation, Ramsland and other conservative activists started an election security company heavily funded by the oil, gas, and fracking industry.
Once Ramsland was able to link up with Louie Gohmert, Sidney Powell, and Rudy Giuliana, the Big Lie was born. Although Pressley and Ramsland eventually had a falling out, Pressley was still the one that put the idea of election audits in Ramsland’s head, just as she put the idea of election fraud in the heads of Hood County Republicans.
Laura Pressley’s fight against free and fair elections began in 2014.
Laura Pressley earned a doctorate in chemistry at the University of Texas, worked in the semiconductor industry, and owned a company that sold bottled rainwater.
In 2014, she ran for a seat on the Austin City Council. During her run for deep-blue Austin, it came to light that she appeared on Infowars and said she believed that data showed military-grade explosives were planted inside the Twin Towers on 9/11. She was a wingnut and conspiracy theorist long before it was cool in the GOP circles.
Pressley lost her bid for city council by a 30-point margin. She couldn’t believe it.
“I knew in my heart that I had won,” she recently told a gathering of law enforcement officers outside Houston, one of the hundreds of speeches she has given about the case, “and I became convinced there was a fraud.” – WaPo.
Pressley’s failed election.
After Pressley lost her 2014 election, she demanded a recount. The recount confirmed she still lost. So, she took it to court. Among other evidence, Pressley cited an audit log that contained nine instances when a machine made by the company Hart InterCivic recorded an event as “Invalid/Corrupt.” She argued that those and other alleged irregularities meant the actual outcome of the election was impossible to determine.
A State judge threw out her case and fined her $100,000 for a frivolous lawsuit. In 2016, a three-judge panel upheld the lower court’s decision. Then in 2019, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court said “maybe” her case had merit, ordered Councilman Gregorio Casar to pay Pressley’s court fees, and overturned all of her sanctions.
While all of this has been happening over the last decade, Laura Pressley dubbed herself an election expert and has been touring the state, speaking to every far-right group who would listen.
Laura Pressley is one of many behind the voter suppression bills in Texas.
Each time a voter suppression bill has gone to the committee this year, Laura Pressley is always there to testify in favor of it. She uses scripture and God’s name to justify taking constitutional rights away from people of color.
What’s most interesting is each time she has testified, she almost always is chummy with and on a first-name basis with the Republicans on the committee. In addition, she often cites the bible in regards to election integrity.
From El Paso to Brownsville, Pressley has been shouting about election integrity to anyone who would listen. She says that she “just knew in her heart” that she legitimately won the election in 2014.
Austin, TX is reliably Democrat and reliably blue. Pressley is an evangelical who has been spouting conspiracy theories and making appearances on Infowars.
No way, in a million years, would she have won in the Austin City Council. Democrats don’t vote for far-right wingnuts.
As far as her saying, “she just knew in her heart she won.” That’s what narcissists say. That’s what Donald Trump, a narcissist, said.
Laura Pressley has convinced thousands of Republicans something is wrong with elections in Texas.
It isn’t just the Hood County Republicans who have sought a partisan takeover of their local elections. And it isn’t just Republican clubs Pressley has been targeting with her fables of vast voting conspiracies in Texas.
The John Birch Society initially made its way to the forefront of the political arena in the 1960s when they threw all of their support behind Dixiegop, Barry Goldwater. They were the very first form of Trumpism, as they peddled in hate and right-wing conspiracies. Once thought to be extinct, the John Birch Society made a comeback in Texas in 2017.
This group has been a known far-right extremist organization for more than 50-years. Yet, last October, Laura Pressley was their guest speaker. A conspiracy theorist was preaching conspiracy theories to one of America’s oldest conspiracy theory groups. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.
Then, earlier this year, Laura Pressley spoke to the Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officers Association. While the name of this organization seems inconspicuous, this is a far-right group that thinks the American government is our greatest threat. The Southern Poverty Law Center put out a report on them in 2016, citing how these so-called Constitutional Sheriffs promote defiance of federal laws.
Aside from Hood County Republicans, what other organizations are taking action based on what Laura Pressley has told them?
After Laura Pressley spoke to Republicans in Nueces County earlier this year, a new extremist group popped up, calling themselves ‘The Election Integrity Project of Nueces County.’
They have supported every unconstitutional piece of racist voter impression from the Texas Legislature this year. They frequently lobby the Republicans in Austin and even claim to be working directly with Representative Todd Hunter.
While these people will undoubtedly deny their support of racist legislation is about race, check out this racist joke one made at their meeting.
There is a Republican club in Hays County called “Hays Constitutional Republicans.”
After interviewing Laura Pressley and inviting her to speak at one of their events, they started ‘The Election Integrity Project of Hays County.’
They plan on using poll watchers loyal to them to make sure there’s no funny business going on in elections in Hays County.
As we’ve all seen play out in Texas Legislature this year, “election integrity” is a code word for stopping Black, brown, and Democratic voters. They’ve done this by limiting voting hours, making it harder for elderly Texans to use mail-in ballots, and criminalizing simple mistakes.
Hood County Republicans are not the only group intending a partisan takeover of their local elections.
Republicans have built a narrative around election integrity.
However, when you peel away the layers, it’s plain old voter suppression wrapped up with a pretty bow on top.
Republicans are about to lose Texas, and they are pulling out every trick they can to prevent that from happening.
Aside from Hood County, the places that these election integrity groups are targeting are Democratic areas. Dallas, Harris, Travis, Bexar, Williamson Counties have all been placed in their scopes.
What happens when Republicans take over their county election boards?
Every one of us has witnessed the lengths Republicans in the Texas legislature will deny potential Democratic voters their constitutional rights to vote and have equal representation. We need to ask ourselves, what will they do on a local level to make sure someone they perceive as a Democrat doesn’t vote or their vote isn’t counted?
The answer to that should concern all of us.
It isn’t just Arizona, the seditious GOP in DC, or the Republicans in the Texas legislature. It is also our neighbors who have fallen for the big lie, are active in city or county politics, and, if given a chance, will make sure your vote isn’t counted.
Laura Pressley has spent a decade traveling the state telling anyone that would listen that Texas elections are full of voter fraud. Then Trump’s Big Lie, which originated from Laura Pressley, lit Texas Republicans on fire.
If Congress doesn’t do something and Democrats don’t take back our state in 2022, democracy in Texas will reflect the days of Jim Crow once again.
In 2022, vote like your life depends on it. In the long run, it very well may.
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