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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott photo courtesy 5. FEATURE Vote by Mail, Go to Jail Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott prosecutes Democrats who help seniors vote by mail while ignoring Republican ballot-box stuffing. By STEVEN ROSENFELD 1111 illie Ray was a 69-year-old AfricanAmerican city council member from Texarkana who wanted her granddaughter, Jamillah Johnson, to learn about civil rights and voting during the 2004 presidential election. The pair helped homebound senior citizens get absentee ballots and, once they were filled out, put them in the mail. Fort Worth’s Gloria Meeks, 69, was a church-going community activist who proudly ran a phone bank and helped homebound elderly people like Parthenia McDonald, 79, vote by mail. McDonald, whose mailbox was two blocks away from ing her, a friend of both women said. 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 18, 2008 And until he recently moved out of state, Walter Hinojosa, a retired school teacher and labor organizer from Austin, was another Democratic Party volunteer who helped elderly and disabled people vote by getting them absentee ballots and mailing them. Today, Ray and Johnson have criminal records for breaking Texas election law. Their travel was restricted during a six-month probation. Meeks is in a nursing home after having a stroke, prompted in part, her friends say, by state police who investigated herincluding spying on Meeks while she bathedand then questioned her about helping McDonald and others vote. Hinojosa has left Texas. Their crime: not including their names, addresses, and signatures on the back of ballots they mailed for their senior neighbors, and carrying envelopes containing those ballots to the mailbox. Since 2005, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, has been prosecuting Democratic Party activists, almost all African-Americans and Latinos, as part of an effort to eradicate what he said was an “epidemic” of voter fraud in Texas. The attorney general’s voter fraud efforts were part of a “Special Investigations Unit” that he launched in early 2006 with a $1.5 million grant from the governor, using federal money awarded from a fund that has spawned controversies, most notably the Tulia drug task force scandal. “These guilty pleas demonstrate precisely why it is so important to uphold the integrity of our election process in the state Abbott said, speaking of Ray’s and Johnson’s convictions in a press release. “We will visit justice upon any who ignore the fact that we have election laws in Texas and they apply to everyone.” Texas Democrats such as Lisa Turner, of the Lone Star Project, said Abbott’s goal was not merely to prosecute little old ladies. Rather, Turner said, it was to send a message to Texas’ minority