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Texas attorney general targets schools’ get-out-the-vote drives

Since mid-January, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been going after school districts over a resolution meant to encourage voting.

The “Culture of Voting” resolution includes an option for school districts to provide transportation to polling stations.

In January, Paxton said busing students to polls can’t be done unless it serves an educational purpose, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.

A month later he issued cease-and-desist letters to the school districts in Clute, Holliday and Lewisville, stating in a news release, “These school districts used taxpayer resources to distribute messages to their staff and the public advocating for or against certain political candidates and measures.”

According to the Texas Tribune, Paxton, a Republican, said that school officials can’t use tax dollars or public social media accounts to express opinions about particular candidates, measures or a political party. One example cited was Brazosport Superintendent Danny Massey, who tweeted in support of Republican lieutenant governor candidate Scott Milder.

The Lewisville school district account tweeted, “We are asking for support from our state Legislature. We’re not getting it. It’s time for change,” in another example Paxton cited.

Most recently, Paxton’s office has sent open-records requests to the Allen, Mesquite and Grapevine-Colleyville school districts requesting all emails between superintendents and principals pertaining to voting, The Dallas Morning News reports.

“It was a little bit odd, in my opinion, to get that,” said Allen Superintendent Scott Niven, who told the News that he’s never seen such a request in more than two decades as an educator but that anybody can make an open-records request.

The Open Records Division of Paxton’s office arbitrates the sort of information requests that Paxton is making of the school districts.

Mesquite school officials received an open-records request on Feb. 23, according to CBS 11. District spokeswoman Laura Jobe told the station that the district has done nothing wrong and that the request amounts to “hours and hours and probably months of work.”

Mesquite didn’t adopt the Culture of Voting resolution, according to the News report, although 200 districts have adopted at least some of it. It notes that Allen and Grapevine-Colleyville didn’t adopt the polling place transportation clause.

“I don’t know how it’s become such a crazy thing unless people have an agenda for not wanting people to vote,” Allen school board President Louise Master told the News.

“It is disappointing that our elected leaders are trying to intimidate voters rather than encourage them to participate in the democratic process,” said Laura Yeager with Texas Educators Vote, the organization behind the Culture of Voting resolution.

Article by Stephen English View on Fort Worth Star Telegram

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