Fs Cent ral Texas Gardener KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, creates innovative television that inspires and educates. KLRU-produced programs that air statewide on Texas PBS stations include Central Texas Gardener, Texas Monthly Talks and The Biscuit Brothers. Check your local listings. kiru tv and beyond klru.org aquifer and leak to the surface through hundreds of abandoned oil wells in the area. Geologists working for the county have studied TexCom’s plan and concluded it could pollute drinking water for hundreds of thousands. The county’s groundwater conservation district said in a release opposing the permit that the plan poses “an unreasonable risk of contamination of the aquifers that make up the water supply of a significant number of people in Montgomery County.” The company maintains that benzene won’t end up in the drinking water. “TexCom’s proposal applies proven deep well injection practices that will completely isolate wastewaters from drinking water sources and therefore represents the safest disposal option,” said company spokesman Justin Keener. Area lawmakers, including Republican state Sen. Tommy Williams of The Woodlands, have written letters to the TCEQ opposing the permit. Still, in late April, two administrative law judges recommended that TCEQ approve it. TCEQ commissioners will hold a final hearing on the case in the next several weeks. At press time, no date had been set. to prosecute voter fraud and spare others from suffering Ray’s fate. Ray and co-defendants, including the Texas Democratic Party, claimed the prosecution was politically motivated. They accused the AG’s office of investigating only Democratsmainly African-Americans and Latinoswhile ignoring evidence of voting irregularities by Anglo Republicans. Democratic activists speculated that Abbott, a Republican, hoped to minimize minority turnout in swing districts. The AG’s office long denied the accusations and asserted that the plaintiffs clearly broke the law. After several days of negotiations, the plaintiffs reached a settlement with the AG’s office on the morning the case was scheduled for trial in federal court in Marshall. The AG’s office agreed, in most cases, not to prosecute individuals who simply carry mail-in ballots for other people, where there is no additional evidence of fraud. “People like Willie Ray and her granddaughterand the people we represent who were investigatedwould not have been investigated if this policy had been followed,” said Gerald Hebert, who represented plaintiffs in the case, “because there was no allegation and no proof that they engaged in any fraud.” Hebert noted that while the AG’s office changed its prosecution procedures, the law is still on the books. The attorney general still has the authority to prosecute absentee voting fraud even though Abbott’s office has vowed not to pursue those who simply fail to sign the ballots. The settlement also stipulates that the Texas Secretary of State will make greater efforts to inform voters of the legal requirements for mail-in ballots. Abbott’s office declared victory after the settlement. Indeed, the AG’s prosecutions of Ray and others, in which no jail time was served, will stand. But the office pledged to refrain generally from such investigations in the future. In short, they conceded that helping old folks vote shouldn’t be treated as a crime. APPROACHING THE BRINK The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has issued a draft permit to Uranium Energy Corp., bringing the Austin-based company one step closer to its goal of mining for uranium in Goliad County. The TCEQ decision follows nine months of deliberation, during which citizens of Goliad County have mobilized against ABBOTT’S BALLOT CRUSADE Election fraud never seemed an appropriate term for what Willie Ray did. The 69-year-old former Texarkana City Council member didn’t stuff a ballot box, vote three or four times, or fill out ballots with the names of dead people. Ray simply mailed ballots for elderly voters who couldn’t do it themselves. But because she neglected to sign the envelopea technical violation of an arcane section of the election codeTexas Attorney General Greg Abbott convicted Ray of voter fraud. As the Observer has reported \(see “Vote by Mail, Go to Jail,” including her granddaughter, believe their prosecutions were discriminatory. They filed suit against Abbott’s office in federal court in 2006. The case was settled last month. Attorneys and advocates hope the resolution will allow the attorney general 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 13, 2008
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