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Original reporting by Steve Miller
In early 2010, Alan John Lesselyong moved from his Dallas apartment to a FEMA trailer in the middle of 1,000 undeveloped acres in Denton County.
He did so at the behest of a group of developers to establish a board and approve $400 million in bondsthat will be paid off by future residents, a hefty responsibility for Lesselyong, the sole voter in Denton County Municipal Utility District #7.
Lesselyong’s voter registration today shows the same address in Pilot Point, and he says he goes to the property frequently, though the trailer is long gone. His voting address is an empty lot, but he lives, he said, in the downtown Dallas apartment.
His case highlights the range of interpretation of Texas’ residency law, which defines “residence” as a place “to which one intends to return after any temporary absence.” While Lesselyong has never been challenged about his registration, seven Woodlands voters, who also moved temporarily into a utility district for voting purposes, are under indictment by the state’s top lawyer for voter fraud.
Lesselyong registered to vote April 28 and 10 days later, on May 8, he served as election judge at a polling place behind his trailer.
“I opened the place in the morning and was there all day,” said the 33-year-old Lesselyong. “I got the equipment, followed the instructions and when the polls were open, I voted.”
No one else came by because Lesselyong was the only person registered in the precinct. By a landslide vote of 1-0, every ballot measure under consideration was approved. By the same margin, each of the board candidates swept into office.
All the district needed was a tenant.
“I met the directors at a dinner they held for us all,” Lesselyong said.
A few months after the election, two people – an 18-year-old woman and a 24-year old man – moved into a trailer not far from the one Lesselyong used to set up their own district. The two voters in the Denton County Municipal Utility District #7, renamed the Four Seasons Municipal Ranch Utility District, approved $292 million in bonds for roads and water infrastructure.
While Lesselyong was holding a one-person election behind his FEMA trailer, a group of 10 Woodlands voters were also getting ready to vote, encamped at a hotel inside the boundaries of their utility district. The Woodlands voters said they were frustrated that the board members had not been challenged in an election for a decade.
The Woodlands voters initially prevailed, electing a slate of new board members. The results were later overturned in court.
Seven of the voters have been charged with voter fraud by the state Attorney General’s office. Some of them say they believe that the charges stem from a well-connected cabal of influencers, beginning with state Sen. Tommy Williams, who aided lawyers filing the fraud complaint against the accused.
The state’s case is based on residency: “Defendant voted in the May 8, 2010 Woodlands Road Utility District Board of Directors election, when he knew he did not reside in the precinct in which he voted,” the indictment states.
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