Republicans Charge Institution Employees With Influencing Residents'
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 2, 2004
LUFKIN, TEXAS--Republican officials in Angelina County were angered Tuesday over what they claim were efforts by Lufkin State School employees to influence the votes of institution residents with mental disabilities.
Those employees said they were just helping the residents to exercise their right to vote.
The Lufkin Daily News reported that sheriff's officials were called to a voting precinct because of a confrontation between Dale Ingle, the county's incoming Republican chairman, and institution employees who had transported five residents to the polling place.
Ingle reportedly demanded the employees' names. On Monday, he had questioned whether it was legal for institution residents to vote and for state vans to transport them to the polls.
According to the non-profit agency Advocacy Inc., Texas law allows people to vote unless if they have been deemed incompetent by the courts. Any registered voter with a disability can legally receive help to cast a ballot from a person of their choice, as long as the help is general in nature and does not improperly influence the voter.
Lufkin State School superintendent Randy Spence said that about 30 of the facility's 420 residents were registered to vote.
Republican officials said they became suspicious after unnamed people told them the institution employees were bribing residents with ice cream, and telling them that they would be sent to fight in the war if they voted for President Bush.
"Under the guise of voter assistance, Democrat operatives are trying to manipulate and undermine our open election process," said Republican Party of Texas Chairwoman Tina Benkiser. "Shame on anyone who would abuse and victimize the mentally disabled for pure partisan gain."
"GOP, Democrats trade charges over state school voting" (Lufkin Daily News)