Following Observer Story, Voting Rights Group Asks DOJ to Investigate West Texas Sheriff (Updated)

An image from Sheriff Elliott's reelection campaign.
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A D.C. voting rights group has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Edwards County Sheriff Pamela Elliott for voter intimidation.

Update, 3:30 p.m.: Edwards County Sheriff Pamela Elliott issued this statement to the Observer in response to the voting rights group’s call for a DOJ investigation into alleged voter intimidation on the basis of race:

“I welcome any and all investigations into any matter, but I believe if you properly research your source or you will conclude that no intimidation by myself or any of my Deputies (all are Hispanic or married to a Hispanic person) occurred at any time or any residence.”

Original story:

A voting rights organization based in Washington, D.C., has called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate possible voter intimidation in Edwards County, following the publication of an Observer investigation into a West Texas sheriff.

In a letter to the head of the DOJ’s civil rights division, the Voting Rights Institute said it had “come to our attention that minority voters in Edwards County, Texas, are allegedly being intimidated by the local sheriff. We call upon the Department of Justice to conduct a federal investigation of this matter to ensure the protection of Latino voting rights.”

In “Above The Law,” we reported the story of Edwards County Sheriff Pamela Elliott, who her detractors say has waged an aggressive campaign to intimidate Democrats, voters and the Latino community. Elliott is a member of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which encourages its members to disobey laws they view as violating the Constitution.

The Voting Rights Institute, a joint project of several legal groups, including the Georgetown University Law Center, highlighted the Observer’s description of an Edwards County Democratic Party meeting in 2014 in which Elliott, together with deputies and assorted supporters, surrounded the house where the meeting was being held. One eyewitness described the crowd outside the house as an “angry mob.”

And during the 2014 midterm elections, Elliott posted deputies inside at least four polling places in Rocksprings — the county seat — which former mayor Rachel Gallegos told the Observer she believed was an attempt to intimidate Hispanic voters.

According to the letter from the National Voting Rights Institute:

The actions of Sheriff Elliott to date strongly suggest that she is engaging in targeted actions to intimidate Latino voters. Because we are deeply concerned that Elliott, who has an opponent in the Fall election, will abuse the power of her office and attempt to intimidate Latino voters, we ask the Department of Justice to conduct a full investigation and take appropriate action.

The Observer has reached out to Elliott for comment, but the sheriff wasn’t available as of press time.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the group that has asked for the DOJ investigation as the National Voting Rights Institute. The correct name of the group is the Voting Rights Institute. The Observer regrets the error.

Alex Hannaford writes about the death penalty, crime, prisons, religion and human interest issues for the Telegraph, Times and Guardian in the UK, and to GQ, The Nation and The Texas Observer.

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Published at 3:00 pm CST
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