Like millions of Americans who wanted to have their say, more than 100 men inside a Texas treatment center for sexually violent predators registered to vote in last month’s presidential election. Local election officials refused to count their ballots, a decision that attorneys say likely violates federal and state laws, reports the Houston Chronicle. The tossed-out votes now are the subject of a growing legal fight in the small town of Littlefield, which once begged to get the treatment center for the jobs and the multimillion-dollar payroll that it brought. The town appears to be having second thoughts about the more than 200 convicted sex offenders that came with it.
“They didn’t want us going out into their community, so they made us vote by mail, and now they’re denying us the right to vote at all,” said Clarence Brown, 54, one of the men whose ballots were rejected. “This place isn’t supposed to be a prison, but this run-down, bigoted little town is trying to make it one so we can’t exercise our constitutional right to vote. Even if they don’t like us, what they have done is not legal.” Brown said he and 65 other men at the center have filed a challenge to the decision to reject their ballots. They plan to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case as a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which makes it a federal crime to prevent a qualified voter from casting a ballot. “It sounds like a pretty clear violation,” said Buck Wood, an Austin lawyer and expert on Texas elections law. “If they completed their sentences, they should have been allowed to vote.”