Coerced voters or just a misunderstanding?

HOUSTON It's an election that has turned out record numbers of early voters. Now, some of those voters say they were coerced into voting the way the poll worker wanted them to. But some other say all of this is just a cultural misunderstanding.

At this point, it's a 'he said, she said' as to what exactly happened. One side says an election worker told people to vote Republican and in some cases, turned the wheel for them and told them to hit the button. The other side says that the election worker was simply showing voters how the voting machine works and some misunderstandings came out of it.

What is for sure at this point is the Harris County clerk's office is investigating.

Democrat Kristi Thibaut has a lot riding on every vote in her race against Republican State Representative Jim Murphy. She thinks the race will be decided by a few hundred votes. And that's why she's outraged at allegations of an Asian-American election worker telling Asian-American voters in Vietnamese to vote straight ticket Republican at a polling place at the Lac-Hong Center in west Houston.

"Not only that, but they're also turning the wheel to the Republican marker and telling them to press right there," said Thimaut. "So obviously, this is against the law and we would like to see this stopped."

But the election supervisor inside the polling place says nothing illegal happened. It's all just a misunderstanding.

"That wasn't true," said election supervisor Eugene Pack. "It was only them asking her about different parties, how to use the eSlate machine, and we do need to teach more on the Eslate machine to teach people of different cultures how to use it."

Democrat Hubert Vo is the incumbent representative in the next district over. It's his poll watcher who said the electioneering was happening. And he says his office has gotten about half a dozen complaints from voters since then.

"We have received several complaints in my office that people want to vote certain ways and they are instructed to vote differently," he told us.

Nonetheless, the Harris County clerk's office is taking the accusations very seriously.

"We immediately started delving into it and investigating the situation," said Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman. "There are multiple Vietnamese speaking workers at that location and we have endeavored to visit with each and every one of them to get their take on what's being said."

Vo and Thibaut, meantime, want just one result.

"We would like to see the workers removed," said Thibaut. "That's the only way we'll feel satisfied is if they are removed."

I put in a call to Republican Representative Jim Murphy's office Wednesday afternoon, but his campaign hasn't called back. Meantime, Democrat Thibaut told me that District 133 is very ethnically diverse. It's about 34 percent white, 27 percent Latino, 23 percent black and 16 percent Asian and she called the Asian vote a swing vote for her.

At this point, there's no word how long the investigation will take.

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