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Justice Department Scrutinizing Texas Elections Austin It was no accident that officials of the U.S. Department of Justice summoned the four U.S. district attorneys for Texas to Austin recently fOr discussion of enforcement of election law. For one thing, a federal grand jury in San Antonio was taking testimony on alleged attempts to persuade opponents to get out of the race against Rep. W. S. Heatly of Paducah \(Obs., For another, Texas long has had a reputation for “irregularities” at election time but has done little or nothing about it. The message from Justice to the D.A.s was quite clear: if we get, complaints about election irregularities this year, we will have the FBI investigate them and, if substantiated, we will prosecute. The D.A.s also were told of a recent ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court which can be applied in such a way as to extend federal protection of the ballot box beyond the present laws. And they were reminded about enforcement of the long-standing prohibition against direct political contributions to candidates by labor business corporations \(a point stressed not Robert J. Rosthal, deputy chief of the governmental operations section of the Justice Department, and his assistant, John E. Clark, formerly of Austin, met at the federal courthouse here for several hours to brief D.A.s Seagal Wheatley of San Antonio, Anthony J. P. Farris of Houston, Eldon Mahon of Fort Worth, and Roby Hadden of Tyler. Clark said later the meeting was called late in February because Texas has one of the earliest primary elections in the nation. Special emphasis was placed on an opinion by the Fourth Circuit Court in upholding the convention of some election officials in Virginia involved in illicit absentee voting activities. That opinion, in effect, said that although the U.S. Constitution does not protect the secrecy of the ballot, it does protect its sanctity, and the casting of the fraudulent absentee ballots diluted the effect of the legitimate ballots-and thereby violated the sanctity of the ballot box. He and Rosthal left no doubt that the Justice Department is prepared to stretch this point to cover other election irregularities not now under federal law. said, strut about polling places, often with pistols visibly adorning a belt or a pocket, and intimidate voters. Although Farris would not identify such places, he said local officials have done nothing about these practices in previous years. He also called on Texas’ chief election officer, Secy. of State Martin Dies, Jr., to notify all election officials that the state election code will be enforced “as it is written.” “If he does that,” said Farris, “we wouldn’t have anything to worry about. We could’ just sit back and watch the returns roll in.” Clark, Rosthal, et at repeatedly told reporters \(each of the D.A.s announced the conference to the news media the day before and all participants made themselves that the federal government considers the conduct of elections purely a state and local function and does not want to change it. They pointed out that the Voting Rights Act allows the sending of federal election observers into only six Southern states, and Texas is not one. But, they continued, if state and local officials remain content to let election law violations continue, then the federal government is ready to jump in The outspoken Farris, whose district provided it receives complaints from covers southern Texas, rapped elections voters and begin investigating and where local jefes and bandoleros, as he prosecuting. 12 The Texas Observer Free Lee Otis Johnson! WE, THE PEOPLE OF TEXAS, HEREBY PETITION the Governor of Texas to pardon and release from imprisonment Lee Otis Johnson. We firmly believe that this man has been convicted and sentenced so severely less for the crime with which he was charged than for the ideas he expressed. Whether or not we agree with his ideas, we abhor his imprisonment for giving voice to them. No American can stand by and watch another enchained for his beliefs, for the freedom one man loses today may be lost to all tomorrow. His release will strengthen respect for rule by law, justly applied. NAME ADDRESS CITY ZIP 1 2. 3. Return to: P. 0. Box 6524, Houston, Tex. 77005 THE LEE OTIS JOHNSON DEFENSE COMMITTEE AND DEFENSE FUND \(Contributions