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Well, that backfired.
Shortly after the 2020 election, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick offered up to $1 million in reward money, to be paid out of his own campaign coffers, to “incentivize, encourage, and reward people to come forward and report voter fraud.” And now, the first person to claim that reward is Eric Frank, a progressive poll worker in Pennsylvania who reported a Republican for voting twice.
Patrick’s campaign paid Frank $25,000 for his tip leading to the conviction of Ralph Thurman, a 72-year-old Republican who voted twice. Thurman, whose lawyers initially claimed he’d been tricked by poll workers into voting a second time, later admitted he had illegally voted a second time using his son’s name.
Thurman was sentenced to three years of probation and is banned from voting for four years.
“It’s my belief that they were trying to get cases of Democrats doing voter fraud. And that just wasn’t the case,” Frank told the Dallas Morning News Thursday. “This kind of blew up in their face.” (Adding insult to injury for Patrick, Frank’s parents are involved in Democratic politics in Pennsylvania.)
When Patrick made the offer last year, he explicitly said it was in response to former President Donald Trump’s calls to investigate voter fraud, after Trump lost his reelection to Joe Biden. Trump’s “pursuit of voter fraud is not only essential to determine the outcome of this election, it is essential to maintain our democracy and restore faith in future elections,” Patrick said at the time.
Patrick’s offer was roundly mocked by Democrats, including Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who’s now running for United States Senate. “I got a dude in Forty Fort, PA, who tried to have his dead mom vote for Trump,” Fetterman tweeted at the time, referring to a similar case in western Pennsylvania. “I’d like mine in Sheetz gift cards pls.”
After Frank provided documentation to Patrick campaign spokesperson Allen Blakemore, Patrick’s campaign cut him a check for $25,000, the Morning News reported. Blakemore told Frank that he was so far the first and only person to seek out the reward, Frank told the Morning News, but that the reward was substantially less than $1 million because the campaign was looking to catch “bigger fish.”
“Was he looking for a celebrity or a political group as a whole?” Frank told the Morning News. “I don’t know what he meant by bigger fish.”
Despite Trump, Patrick, and the GOP’s relentless attempts to prove that voter fraud on a massive scale tipped the election to President Joe Biden, there were fewer than 200 cases of voter fraud that went to court between the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election, according to a Bloomberg investigation in July. In nearly half of the 50 states Bloomberg surveyed, there had been zero voter fraud cases brought to court since November 2018.
Texas and other Republican-controlled states have nonetheless taken steps to tighten restrictions on absentee balloting, which saw an unprecedented spike in usage last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And despite the utter lack of evidence that illegal voting is happening on any substantial level, Patrick is still at it. On Wednesday, he tweeted that he wants Gov. Greg Abbott to call the legislature back for a fourth special session, in an attempt to force the Texas House of Representatives to increase the penalties for “illegal voting.” Patrick also wants an Arizona-style “forensic audit” of the 2020 election, which Trump himself called for last month—even though he comfortably won Texas.