in Houston, Texas

Voter fraud persists in South Texas as enforcement efforts fail

Photo of postal drop boxes by flickr user The Truth About.
Wednesday, Apr 07, 2010, 07:08PM CST
By Steve Miller

MATHIS, Texas --- South Texas is rife with agents from local political camps who prosper by organizing mail-in ballot fraud, elections administrators and other observers in the region say, even after a state-level push to curb the wrongdoing.

The office of state Attorney General Greg Abbott has several open investigations into the practice of shepherding mail-in ballots, mostly in the name of elderly voters. But perpetrators leave a sparse paper trail, election officials say, and the potential five-figure earnings for local operatives far outweigh any punishment levied for committing fraud, typically a misdemeanor.

“It’s a racket,” said Nicole Perez, general manager of the Alice Echo-News Journal, a daily newspaper that has chronicled voting malfeasance in the region for years. A canvasser can earn as much as $30,000 during a political season, Perez said, by walking elderly and infirm voters through the mail-in ballot process, coaching their vote for the favored candidate and helping those voters sign, seal and deliver that ballot.

Perez led her newsroom in a 2008 investigation of checking each mail-in ballot in two counties, lining up the signature on file for each voter with the signatures on the request form and return form for the mail-in ballot.

Nicole PerezPEREZ

The newspaper found numerous inconsistencies in the voting process for the March 2008 primary in Jim Wells County. Findings included unaccounted for mail-in ballots; duplicate, and in some cases, triplicate, mail-in ballot applications for one person; and some applications that cited disability as the reason for voting by mail when the voter had no disability.

The newspaper's stories coincided with a state AG's investigation, but despite the newspaper's interviews and documentation of seemingly blatant abuses of the voting process, only three minor charges have been filed so far.

The current penalties for committing the fraud -- in the same penalty class as first-offense shoplifting -- are doing little to discourage the practice. Despite cautionary reports from elected leaders in Austin, lawmakers have failed to address the issue of a tainted mail-in ballot process.

On the horizon, though, is a consortium of South Texas elections administrators who plan to take their concerns about voter fraud to the statehouse during the next legislative session. Elections administrators in 10 counties -- Willacy, Kenedy, Jim Wells, Cameron, Duval, Hidalgo, Webb, Nueces, San Patricio and Starr -- are passing on complaints from the voters.

“The elderly are finally speaking up,” said Pam Hill, elections administrator for San Patricio County and a member of the consortium. “We don’t know how many years it’s been going on ... but they’re saying, ‘Someone is coming and taking my ballot, and they’re voting for me.’ And that is their biggest complaint. And of course, that is illegal.”

CONTINUES

Page 2: Use of politiqueros takes illegal turn

Page 3: Stiffer penalties a solution?

Related: More extended video interviews

Related: Politiquero tradition shapes elections in South Texas

Comments
Robbins Mitchell
Thursday, 04/08/2010 - 09:19AM

Something tells me that George Parr...the "Duke of Duvall"...is laughing his ass off somewhere.

Video
KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
Related Blogs and Media
Keller family fights for adoptive children to be released from Congo A North Texas couple adopted two children — son Josias and daughter Mercy — from Africa but can’t bring them home...
Update:2 hours 32 min
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The Playlist: Fight Night In honor of a heated televised debate between state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and San...
Update:4 hours 46 min
Texas Tribune
APRIL 19 / The Salvation Army of Greater Houston is . . . . . . a worthy recipient of your charity dollars. A story from a recent Army newsletter: Like many others, Stan was recently laid off from...
Update:13 hours 20 min
Unca Darrell
Friedman on Equal Pay
Update:16 hours 40 min
Houston's Clear Thinkers
State ethics unit found nothing to pursue in complaint against Davis The Public Integrity Unit in the Travis County district attorney’s office looked into a political opponent’s complaint about...
Update:19 hours 26 min
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Comment of the Day: So Condos Are Forever? “My condo complex sits on about 6 acres of land on the western edge of River Oaks. We’ve been approached a few times by developers,...
Update:1 day 18 min
Swamplot
The Comcast-FCC Revolving Door With several former FCC employees in its lobbying ranks, including a former commissioner, the revolving door between Comcast and the...
Update:1 day 30 min
Open Secrets
Banking Industry Has Connections to Shape Mortgage Overhaul As the Senate Banking Committee prepares to vote on a new bill overhauling the mortgage finance system, lobbyists from the banking and...
Update:1 day 2 hours
Open Secrets
Conroe Home Listing Photo of the Day: Pilot Light 11969 White Oak Run [HAR] … Read...
Update:1 day 3 hours
Swamplot
This Skinny 39-Story Apartment Tower Will Squeeze in Next to the New Marriott Marquis Downtown, Behind Discovery Green It looks like engineers have begun soil testing the thin strip of land left along Crawford St. downtown between the Hess Tower parking...
Update:1 day 5 hours
Swamplot
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 1 year 7 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 1 year 7 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 1 year 7 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 1 year 7 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 1 year 7 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 1 year 7 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 1 year 7 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 1 year 7 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
© 2014 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement