If you’re new to Texas—or have a short memory— you may not realize the dubious credentials that State Senator Paul Bettencourt (SD7 – Harris County) brings to his current roles overseeing Dan Patrick’s voter suppression legislative package and leading election denier efforts to overturn election results in Harris County.
Bettencourt has proposed a series of Jim Crow bills designed to make it harder to vote, including one that would install armed “election marshals” designed to intimidate voters.
In 2008, Bettencourt engaged in the last court-verified act of voter suppression in Harris County while he served as Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector, the office then responsible for administering voter registration in Harris. Bettencourt’s office intentionally left thousands of voter registration applications unprocessed, blocking Harris County residents from participating in the 2008 General Election even though they submitted their applications before the 30 day deadline.
Bettencourt’s Corrupt Enterprise
Bettencourt’s Tax Assessor-Collector office was a corrupt enterprise that essentially functioned as an arm of the Republican Party. With collaborators including former Republican House Member Dwayne Bohac and Republican operative Ed Johnson, Bettencourt suppressed the vote in the most efficient way – he stopped eligible voters from registering at the outset. When a lawsuit brought the heat down, Bettencourt bailed out – quitting the job and leaving his hand-picked successor, Leo Vasquez, to take the blame. But make no mistake, it was Paul Bettencourt’s corrupt operation that blocked the legal registration of thousands of eligible Harris County voters.
After Bettencourt abandoned his job as Tax Assessor-Collector, his successor Vasquez conceded to violations and entered into a settlement agreement, though he later failed to abide by the settlement until forced to do so by the federal courts.
Abbott and Patrick Turn to Bettencourt for Voter Suppression
It’s no surprise that Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick would turn to a proven vote suppressor like Bettencourt to push through another round of Jim Crow-style discriminatory voting laws. As Texas Attorney General and Governor, Abbott has a long history of attacking minority voting rights. Patrick is a full-blown election denier, leading the Trump Campaign in Texas and moving to overrule Harris County voters by calling for new elections without a court ruling or credible evidence to support his claims. Now, they’ve turned to Paul Bettencourt to do the dirtiest of their work.
Bettencourt’s Sudden Resignation Raises Serious Questions
Controversial county officer should explain under-the-table job offer, late night resignation and election misconduct
Paul Bettencourt, described as a “staunch partisan” by the Houston Chronicle, is the Tax Assessor-Collector who oversees elections in Harris County. (Source: The Houston Chronicle, October 26, 2008) Bettencourt has used his official role as Voter Registrar for partisan purposes throughout his tenure, including:
2. October 27, 2009
Settlement Confirms Vote Suppression Tactics in Vasquez Office
Document exposes Vasquez’s dishonesty
George Hammerlein, like Johnson, is a dedicated Republican from the Bettencourt regime who voted in the last five Republican primaries. Top voting officials in other major counties like Dallas abstain from participating in primary elections. (Source: Texas Secretary of State) Depositions and documents produced for the lawsuit have revealed that Hammerlein was Johnson’s key ally in the effort to disenfranchise voters. Hammerlein even went to Austin to testify for the bill that created the Harris GOP loophole that lead to the thousands of Harris County voters being disenfranchised. (Source: TX House Elections Committee) Hammerlein, like Johnson, was reassigned out of the elections office, but maintains his ability to influence elections in 2010.
3. October 30, 2009
Leo Breaks His Word
Vasquez, Woodfill and Bettencourt comments partisan & dishonest
Clearly, Leo Vasquez has no intention to follow the spirit or letter of the agreement that he personally signed. Vasquez’s press release followed attacks and misrepresentations from his Republican County Party Chair, Jared Woodfill, and his predecessor, Paul Bettencourt. Both attacked the settlement and denied the very acts Vasquez has previously admitted. During his short tenure as Tax Assessor-Collector, Leo Vasquez has failed to distance himself from the harsh ideological partisans in his party like Jared Woodfill, and he has refused to fire Bettencourt staff at the Tax Assessor office, particularly the Republican “inside man” Ed Johnson.
4. July 8, 2009
Video – Inside Man
This video does not mention Bettencourt by name but calls out all of his cronies at the time and points to the direct corruption of his long-time associate, Ed Johnson.