Ismael Estrada and David Mattingly
AC360° Producer and Correspondent
ELDORADO, Texas - Schleicher County, Texas is the kind of small community where everyone knows your name. This tiny town has two traffic lights and gas stations, a few restaurants, a small, local weekly paper and now - possibly hundreds of new voters.
A few years ago, when the FLDS polygamist sect set up camp on their new 1,700-acre property, they told local officials they wanted nothing to do with local government. They say they just wanted to stay to themselves in their secluded YFZ ranch, where they were building massive homes and a temple as more FLDS members moved in.
But their promise to stay out of local government has changed since Texas authorities raided their property on April 3.
FLDS members are now grabbing up voter registration forms in hopes of sending hundreds of new voters to the polls. That's a concern for local residents here in Schleicher County where there are only 1,900 registered voters.
“This is the only thing the only thing you have to stop what’s happening going forward” said Willie Jessop, an FLDS member and spokesman.
Jessop says they're no longer going to sit back and avoid taking part in local government.
“The only chance we have that has been given to us by our founding fathers, is to vote,” exclaimed Jessop.
Since the polygamous sect members headed to the local county election registrar last week, rumors have been swirling about what their intentions may be. It’s the main topic for conversation at Rosa’s Casita restaurant.
“I think it’s very much a concern,” said Carolyn Mittel, a local resident. "“I think most everyone in town would be very concerned about it.”
Another resident, Joe Kotsch believes those new voters could swing an election: “They have so may new people out there, they could out power people who vote here.”
One man who is up for re-election this November is local sheriff, David Doran. He won his last election by less than 500 votes. His department helped gain access to the YFZ ranch during the raid that has become the focus of the FLDS - which feels they were slighted by the sheriff.
“Once you violate that public trust, the only recourse you have is to have them removed from public office,” said Jessop.
It’s a concern for Sheriff Doran who says hundreds of new voters could certainly swing an election.
“If we had a mass registration out of retaliation purposes," Doran said. "That concerns me that there could be a different factor coming in messing with the election.”
Of bigger concern to local residents is how far the FLDS would be willing to go.
When asked if they planned to have FLDS members as write-in candidates for local elections in the future, Jessop responded, "We are not ruling out any possibilities.”
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with