in Houston, Texas
Politiquero tradition shapes elections in South Texas
Wednesday, Apr 07, 2010, 02:07PM CST
By Steve Miller

The tradition of voting for a patron in hopes of getting favors such as jobs has evolved, taking on a more modern twist in the South Texas voting arena.


Today, "politiqueros” are going out and delivering the vote for candidates -- though some South Texans say they believe the tradition has been corrupted by political workers who cross the line from legal activism to unlawful fraud.


Politiqueros participate in mail-in ballot schemes to stack votes in favor of candidates, who pay the workers under the auspices of getting out the vote. These efforts are legal up to a point, but cross over into fraud when a politiquero assists with multiple mail-in ballots or exerts undue influence over which candidates voters select on the mail-in ballots.


Politiqueros, and in their female iteration, politiqueras, have worked to shape election outcomes from rural Latin America to Chicago.


In Mexico, ranch bosses would round up votes from employees, asking them to vote a certain way as a sign of allegiance; down the line, perhaps the employee would be favored with a promotion.


In their legal form in the U.S., the "politiquero" increases voter turnout, sometimes gathering people and delivering them to polling places or engaging in other get-out-the-vote activities. In the Chicago variation on the patronage system, a fabled machine would crank out voting results that were almost entirely predicated on the promise of political favors.


"It's a practice commonly used where there is a lot of power and there are undereducated populations," said Aaron Peña, a Democratic state representative whose district takes in Hidalgo County in South Texas. "And it's particularly prevalent among ethnic minorities who can take advantage of the patronage privilege."


But in South Texas, these vote-harvesting agents are referenced in legislative reports on voting problems, especially when the validity of mail-in ballots has been called into question.


"These ladies will go around soliciting mail-in ballots from the elderly, and for every ballot they turn in for the particular candidate they may be working for, they get paid," said Nicole Perez, general manager of the Alice Echo-News Journal, a daily newspaper that has chronicled voting malfeasance. "They get paid by the vote. I've heard everywhere from $5 to $25 a ballot."


This practice in Texas is a “very modern and wiggly way to attempt to circumvent the law,” said K.B. Forbes, a political consultant and Hispanic activist who has served as an elections observer in Durango and Sonora, both states in Mexico.


“In the Latin culture, they have colonias, which is ‘little colony,’ literally,” Forbes said. “In these, they sometimes have the equivalent of a precinct boss, and that’s how people move up. They deliver the vote, and when the candidate moves in, the theory is that they get a good post inside the government.”


In those countries, the practice is legal. But in the U.S., coercion is not because “the direct vote has always been private, secret and cannot be influenced by anyone, be it a union, the League of Women Voters or a political party,” Forbes said.


There are colonias in the U.S., too, and Texas has the most, according to a state Web site that attributes the information to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Video
KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
Related Blogs and Media
Ellis, Harrington: Reduce incarceration levels at Harris County Jail State Sen. Rodney Ellis and Texas Civil Right Project chief James Harrington recently wrote a letter to the Harris County Budget and...
Update:11 hours 1 min
Grits for Breakfast
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Update:14 hours 35 min
Houston's Clear Thinkers
Texas Libertarians move forward with gubernatorial candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz tries a bipartisan approach and finds...
Update:19 hours 27 min
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Texting-and-driving ban may still fail after Perry Texas is one of only seven states without a law prohibiting all drivers from texting while...
Update:21 hours 13 min
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
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:1 day 59 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:1 day 3 hours
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:1 day 11 hours
Unca Darrell
Friedman on Equal Pay
Update:1 day 15 hours
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:1 day 17 hours
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 22 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