The US Department of Justice confirmed they are conducting an investigation in Hockley county. Special Agent Jennifer Cejpek said an investigation is underway, she released very little information.
We are told the investigation is after complaints were filed with the Secretary of States office following the March Primary. The investigation is in regards to complaints about candidates who were in violation of election code 61.001 and 61.003.
The following is a direct excerpt from the election code:
Sec. 61.001. BYSTANDERS EXCLUDED; UNLAWFUL PRESENCE OF CANDIDATE. (a) Except as permitted by this code, a person may not be in the polling place from the time the presiding judge arrives there on election day to make the preliminary arrangements until the precinct returns have been certified and the election records have been assembled for distribution following the election.
(b) A candidate in the election commits an offense if the candidate is in a polling place during the period described by Subsection (a) for a purpose other than:
(1) voting; or official business in the building in which the polling place is located.
(c) It is an exception to the application of Subsection (b) that the candidate:
(1) is not within plain view or hearing of the persons in the voting area or the area in which voters are being accepted for voting; and
(2) is not engaged in campaign activity.
(d) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
Sec. 61.003. ELECTIONEERING AND LOITERING NEAR POLLING PLACE. (a) A person commits an offense if, during the voting period and within 100 feet of an outside door through which a voter may enter the building in which a polling place is located, the person:
(1) loiters; or electioneers for or against any candidate, measure, or political party.
The entity that owns or controls a public building being used as a polling place may not, at any time during the voting period, prohibit electioneering on the building’s premises outside of the area described in Subsection (a), but may enact reasonable regulations concerning the time, place, and manner of electioneering.
(b) In this section:
(1) “Electioneering” includes the posting, use, or distribution of political signs or literature.
(2) “Voting period” means the period beginning when the polls open for voting and ending when the polls close or the last voter has voted, whichever is later.
(c) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
The complaints center around evidence claiming that incumbent candidate for County Commissioner J.L. “Whitey” Barnett was on the first floor of the courthouse on the date of the election. Barnett has an office on the first floor of the courthouse and is routinely in that office. The is also evidence which states Candidate for Sheriff Ray Scifres was seen walking down the hall on the first floor of the courthouse on the day of the election. We do know some Hockley County Residents have been interviewed by authorities in relation to the investigation.
Hockley County Judge Sharla Baldridge said she has not received word that the County is being investigated and had no comment. Elections Coordinator, Cheryl Smart also declined comment as she had not received official notice of an investigation.