LAW OFFICES OF J. Gerald Hebert
J. Gerald Hebert, P.C. Attorney at Law
5019 Waple Lane ◊ Alexandria, VA 22304 ◊ (703) 628-4673 ◊ (202) 736-2222 (fax) ◊ website: www.voterlaw.com
May 9, 2007
John K. Tanner, Esq.
Chief, Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66128
Washington DC 20035-6128
Re: Complaint of Voting Harassment, Intimidation in Texarkana, Texas
Dear Mr. Tanner:
I serve as legal counsel to several voters in the State of Texas who have filed suit
alleging that certain voting laws in Texas are unconstitutional and violative of federal
law. One of those plaintiffs is Ms. Willie Ray, an African-American councilwoman who
serves as an elected member of the Texarkana City Council.
Ms. Ray is a candidate for re-election in the May 12, 2007 city council election
from Ward 2. Ms. Ray has been a councilmember since 1997. The city council is
elected from six single-member districts with a mayor elected at-large. Ms. Ray’s
opponent in the May 12 election is Barbara Adams, who is also an African-American.
Ms. Adams has been supported by one Edsel “Rusty” Hicks. Mr. Hicks is the person
who has been harassing Ms. Ray and black voters for over a decade, and who is the main
subject of this complaint.
Back in 1996, Mr. Hicks filed complaints with Texas state authorities alleging
voter fraud by Ms. Ray. Among other things, he alleged that Ms. Ray had photocopied
ballots, and that her supporters had commandeered ballot boxes during the 1996 election.
Mr. Hicks was an unsuccessful candidate in that election, I believe, for the Bowie County
Commissioners Court. Mr. Hicks hired a private investigator who went around
Texarkana and Bowie County in an effort to substantiate Mr. Hicks’ allegations of voter
fraud. The results of that investigation were turned over to the local district attorney and
sent to the Texas Secretary of State’s office. Mr. Hicks’ allegations of voter fraud could
not be verified. For example, while Mr. Hicks claimed that Ms. Ray had photocopied
ballots at the local copying store, it turned out that she had been there to photocopy voter
registration applications—which is entirely legal under Texas law. Thus, neither the
local district attorney nor the Secretary of state took any action.
In 2004, Ms. Ray was again subjected to numerous complaints by Mr. Hicks. Mr.
Hicks wrote to the Texas Attorney General and to the Texas Secretary of State. His
complaint claimed that the “[e]vidence will show a complete circle of ballot fraud
beginning with HB54 application process, to the voting of absentee ballot[s] at home.
Violations include illegal assistance, influence, bribery, voting ballots for voter[s], illegal
possession of improper mail courier, and forged signatures.” Mr. Hicks’ complaint
continues: Lifelong friend of our County Judge is one of Texarkana’s City Council
members Willie J. Ray, she will be directly linked with the process since the 1996
Primary [and] General Election by American Investigations, Inc.” Again nearly all of
Mr. Hicks’ allegations turned out to be unsupported by the facts, and appear to have been
undertaken to have a chilling effect on Ms. Ray’s political activities in the black
community, particularly among the elderly and disabled black population who had come
to depend on Ms. Ray for assistance in casting their ballots.
In 2005, the Texas Attorney General alleged that in 2004 Ms. Ray had mailed
ballots for elderly and disabled voters. This was a violation of the newly amended Texas
Election Code which made it a crime to possess the absentee ballot of another person.
Ms. Ray pled guilty to mailing one ballot and was sentenced to probation and fine.
There was no allegation that Ms. Ray engaged in any fraudulent activity or mismarked
anyone’s ballot, forged anyone’s signature, or voted for anyone—all of which had been
alleged by Hicks. All that was alleged in the indictment was that she possessed the mail
in ballot envelope of another person. The 2003 statute which made it a crime to possess
the absentee ballot of another is the subject of the pending federal lawsuit referenced
above in which plaintiffs allege that the statute is unconstitutional and violative of federal
Mr. Hicks is back at it again. This time, even though he is not a resident of the
City of Texarkana, he and his wife, Kathy Hicks, served as poll watchers during early
voting for the city council races. The “Appointment of Poll Watcher” forms which I have
obtained confirm that Barbara Adams appointed Rusty Hicks as a poll watcher on May 1,
2007 and May 3, 2007. Barbara Adams also appointed Kathy Hicks as a poll watcher on
April 30, 2007 and May 2, 2007. Since neither lives in the City nor this precinct, this is
contrary to Texas law, which requires that a poll watcher be a registered voter in the
precinct where they are assigned. Since Mr. Hicks is not a registered voter in Texarkana
city limits, he was not eligible to serve as a poll watcher. See Texas Election Code §
33.031(3). Moreover, since Mr. Hicks is not a city resident, he has no right to be in the
polling place and thus was a bystander and loiterer, again violations of the Texas Election
Code. See Texas Election Code § 61.001 and § 61.003.
Mr. Hicks also obtained a listing of all voters who applied for mail in ballots and
who have voted by mail in this election. In the past, Mr. Hicks and his wife have
obtained that listing and we believe that they used the list to call and harass voters.
Voters in 2006 were called and warned that they might be subject to prosecution for
having voted by mail. Voters were also told that by allowing someone to assist them in
voting, they may have given up their right to vote because it could be stolen from them.
On March 7, 2006, Election Day, a Texarkana resident, Molly Beth Malcolm, sent a fax
to Susanna Lorenzo-Giguere of your office at the Department of Justice, reporting that at
least two African-American women were called and told their ballot would not count.
We fear Mr. and Mrs. Hicks were involved in this intimidation and harassment and will
do it again.
It is also believed Mr. Hicks has arranged for Ms. Sandra Cherry, an opponent of
Ms. Ray’s from 2 years ago and a candidate who Mr. Hicks supported in that election, to
serve as a poll watcher at one of the voting places on May 12 election. There are two
polling places in Ward 2, and at one of the two polling places, there will be three
different ballots (city council, a bond election for the local school district, and a
constitutional amendment). Thus, any disruption in this precinct could lead to delays in
voting. There may also be considerable confusion at the polls. Any poll watcher intent
on disrupting the election may cause voters to leave out of disgust or undue delay.
Ms. Ray has also had her yard signs stolen. A night watchman at a local business
said he saw a Texarkana police officer tear down one of Ms. Ray’s signs. Ms. Ray and
others on city council are embroiled in an issue over the hiring of a new police chief, yet
it appears only Ms. Ray’s signs are being stolen. We do not know if Mr. Hicks has any
involvement in the theft of yard signs.
Finally, it appears also that Mr. Hicks has held himself out as being affiliated in
some way with the Texas Attorney General’s office, when in fact he is not employed by
that office. To our knowledge, he has no connection to the Office of the Texas Attorney
general. Yet, when Mr. Hicks presents himself to local election officials and demands
documents, he does so claiming he needs them because he is “assisting the Texas
We want the Department of Justice to investigate this urgent matter. We also
want the Department of Justice to monitor polling place activities on Election Day to
ensure that no one is denied the right to vote. And finally, we want the Department to
undertake all necessary and appropriate action to ensure that Mr. Hicks is unsuccessful in
his efforts to deny Texarkana’s black voters of an equal opportunity to participate
effectively in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice.
I have extensive files on Mr. Hicks’ ongoing involvement in these matters that I
obtained from the Texas Attorney General’s office. I am happy to share this information
with you and to answer any questions you may have regarding this matter.
/s/ J. Gerald Hebert
J. Gerald Hebert