FLDS pledge political activism in Texas

Eldorado, USA - When members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch requested hundreds of voter registration cards, it caused some fear among people in tiny Schleicher County, Texas.

They worried that the Utah-based polygamous church would take over their local government. But in the aftermath of the raid on the YFZ Ranch, church members are vowing to be more involved in who represents them.

Results of Tuesday's elections don't show any obvious backlash against officials involved in the raid, but FLDS members are pledging to become more politically active going forward.

"We'll make sure they're held accountable," said FLDS Church member and spokesman Willie Jessop. "We are showing up. We are going to vote. I don't know if that will happen immediately, but I think clearly the message was in order to protect your civil rights you have to be involved and hold people accountable for their actions."

In April, Texas child welfare workers and law enforcement raided the YFZ Ranch on a tip alleging abuse. Hundreds of children were taken into state protective custody, only to be returned two months later when two Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly and the children were not at immediate risk of abuse.

Nine men, including FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, have been indicted by a Schleicher County grand jury on criminal charges connected to underage marriages.

In Eldorado, Texas, Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran easily defeated his opponent, Shane West, with 967 votes to West's 326. About 50 members from the FLDS community came out to vote, the sheriff said.

Doran did not believe the YFZ Raid was a major factor in the voting, either for or against him.

"It's the day to day operation," he told the Deseret News on Wednesday. "Our professionalism in our department. We take care of our community."

Texas Rep. Harvey Hildebran, whom FLDS members have accused of leading the charge to drive them out of the Lone Star state, won re-election with a nearly 90 percent victory.

Jessop said many FLDS members have been scattered across Texas in the ongoing child custody battle, which may explain the low turnout.

"We're not trying to control the local politics," he said. "But without us being involved you leave yourself extremely vulnerable for people like Hildebran, David Doran and other politicians to exploit you. We're in the process of having them be accountable for their actions."

Doran said it is hard to say how any FLDS political activism will factor into future races or county elections. The sheriff said he still plans to work with members of the YFZ Ranch, despite the raid.

"We still treat the fundamentalist community like we have in the past previous to the raid," Doran said. "We're there for them if they need us. We still have open communication. I think things will level out."