The letter, which came as House Democrats investigate allegations of voter suppression in Texas, trumpeted one of Paxton’s favorite statistics. All told, the letter said, the Election Fraud Unit had “prosecuted 33 defendants for a total of 97 election fraud violations” in 2018. The investigations and prosecutions have “taught us that organized voter fraud is happening in our state,” Jeffrey Mateer, the first assistant attorney general, wrote in the letter.
In fact, all but three of the 33 cases Paxton’s office touted ended with the accused entering a prosecution diversion program, HuffPost found through a public records request to Paxton’s office. (Another 15 cases are pending, and there are 75 active election fraud investigations, according to the AG’s office.) The 30 defendants who ended up in diversion programs had a stipulation of guilt, but generally, people who participate in such programs avoid criminal consequences so long as they don’t reoffend.
Prosecution diversions are typically used in cases where the accused doesn’t pose a major threat to public safety — maybe the offense is minor, the defendant is unlikely to reoffend, or the facts may not be sufficient for the government to win a case, experts told HuffPost. The fact that there are so many “de minimis,” cases — meaning too minor to merit consideration or prosecution — suggests that the Texas AG “wanted the numbers,” David Iglesias, the former United States attorney in New Mexico, said.