Texas election worker’s heart attack blamed on conflicts with poll watcher 

10 Nov, 2023 Liz Carey

                               

Williamson County, TX (WorkersCompensation.com) – Texas officials first blamed a voter fraud activist, and then later retracted, for the heart attack a poll worker suffered while working an early voting site this week.  

On Monday, Oct. 30, a poll worker in Williamson County had a heart attack while working the polls. County officials said the emergency was caused by a tense interaction with Laura Pressley, a poll watcher and conservative activist.  

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell, Jr. emailed Pressley claiming that her actions had “single-handedly almost cost someone their life.” The email also instructed Pressley to deal only with him.  

“Enough with castigating and harassing our county employees and election workers,” the email said according to the Texas Tribune. “Let them run the election.”  

Pressley has a reputation for election complaints in the area, reports said. Some voting rights advocates in Texas, which changed its state laws to allow partisan poll watchers to have “free movement” at polling locations after allegations of voter fraud in 2020, have said that it’s common to hear complaints about Pressley harassing election workers and accusing them of not doing their job properly.  

“It’s part of a pattern we’ve seen over the last decade: right-wing groups and people like Laura Pressley really just weaponizing poll watchers in some really alarming ways,” Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of Common Cause Texas, told the Texas Tribune. “They're making it harder for people to vote. They're making it harder for election workers to do their jobs.” 

In 2021, Reuters reported that more than 100 election workers across the country received death threats or threats of violence following former President Donald Trump’s false allegations that of election fraud and malfeasance on the part of election workers.  

Since then, the U.S. Department of Justice has worked to charge those threatening election workers as a way to try thwart some of the violent and graphic threats levied against those who count and secure votes across the country. In August, the DOJ said more than a dozen people had been charged with threatening elections workers across the country. After creating a task force to find and charge those who threaten election workers, part of the DOJ’s public integrity section charged with investigating elections crimes, department leaders said they hope prosecuting offenders would deter others from threatening and harassing election workers.  

“This isn’t going to be taken lightly. It’s not going to be trivialized,” John Keller, the unit’s second in command, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Federal judges, the courts are taking misconduct seriously and the punishments are going to be commensurate with the seriousness of the conduct.” 

The unit has filed charges in 14 cases, two of which have resulted in prison sentences.  

In one case, an Iowa man received 2 and a half years for leaving a message threatening to “lynch” and “hang” an Arizona election official. In another case, a Texas man was given 3 and a half years after suggesting a “mass shooting of poll workers and election officials” last year, court records show. In one of his messages, the department said, the man wrote: “Someone needs to get these people AND their children. The children are the most important message to send.”  

Other indictments released in August included one against a man who allegedly left an expletive-filled voicemail for Tina Barton, the former Republican clerk in Rochester Hills, Mich., vowing “a million plus patriots will surround you when you least expect it” and “we’ll… kill you.”  

In a survey published in April by the Brennan Center, about 1 in every 5 election workers knows someone who left their election job for safety reasons. Additionally, about three quarters (73 percent) of local election officials said harassment had increased.  

In the Williamson County incident, Pressley’s lawyer said in a letter to Gravell that his accusations against Pressley were defamation, and that Pressley and other activists with her were not responsible for the election worker’s heart attack. Instead, the attorney wrote, Pressley and another poll watcher had been speaking with another election worker about procedures during the election and noticed the other worker’s medical emergency.  

As a result, Gravell apologized and retracted his initial statement in a letter to Pressley’s lawyer, Ana Eby of the Eby Law Firm.  

“It is clear there are two sides to every story or situation,” he wrote. 

In addition, Gravel retracted his statements publicly and read the letter during a commissioners court meeting, as well as provided a copy of the letter to the media.  

However, during the same meeting, Gravell asked local law enforcement to look into what happened.  

“If all is well, then all is well,” he said.” But if someone has done something inappropriate, and placed someone in harm's way, potentially they should be held accountable.” 


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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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