Controversial Texas Attorney-General Ken Paxton announces arrest of Rachel Rodriguez, accused of election fraud

Rachel Rodriguez.
Rachel Rodriguez. Photo credit: Texas Attorney-General.

A controversial Texas Attorney-General has announced the arrest of a woman accused of election fraud.

According to a press release from the office of Ken Paxton, the Attorney-General of Texas, Rachel Rodriguez was arrested on Thursday "for election fraud, illegal voting, unlawfully assisting people voting by mail, and unlawfully possessing an official ballot". 

"Rodriguez was exposed in a Project Veritas video last fall while she engaged in vote harvesting leading up to the 2020 election," the statement claims. Part of a video appears to show Rodriguez guiding voters to change their ballots. 

Project Veritas is a right-wing activist group which has previously come under fire for making deceptive videos and using questionable information-gathering techniques. Researchers from Stanford University and the University of Washington last year said the group spread "election disinformation". 

The Attorney-General's statement says that its Election Fraud Division reviewed "hours of unedited, raw footage, which led to this arrest" and that Rodriguez had acknowledged in the video that what she was doing was illegal.

"Many continue to claim that there’s no such thing as election fraud. We’ve always known that such a claim is false and misleading, and today we have additional hard evidence," Paxton said.

Following the 2020 November election, the US President and his supporters made repeated claims that the election had been rigged and that there was widespread voter fraud.

However, Donald Trump's own Attorney-General, William Barr, said in December that his department had found no proof of that "on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election". 

NBC affiliate KXAN News reported last year that since 2004, 150 people had been charged in Texas with voter fraud. 

Joe Biden was certified by Congress last week as the victor of the election and will be inaugurated on Thursday next week. Trump is now promising an orderly transition of power.

There have recently been calls for Paxton to be removed from his office, with Texas activists pointing to his actions since the election.

Paxton in December filed a lawsuit in the US Supreme Court against Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan - four states Trump lost in - making claims about their procedures enabling "illegal and unconstitutional elections". However, the Supreme Court refused to hear his challenge. 

"Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognisable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections," the court wrote.

Last week, the Attorney-General encouraged people to travel with him to Washington DC for Trump's rally. At that event, the US President called on his supporters to "fight" and march to Capitol Hill, leading to a riot in which five people were killed. Trump was impeached on Thursday for his role in inciting that insurrection.

Following the Capitol attack, Paxton tweeted that he didn't believe "violence is the answer". But he also spread a conspiracy theory on Twitter that the rioters were not Trump supporters but "Antifa thugs".

Paxton was reportedly the only US Attorney General not to sign one of two letters condemning the siege. He later defended that decision by saying he had already made his condemnation clear.