in Houston, Texas
Bills to curb mail-in ballot fraud get hearing; absentee ballot fraud 'largest growing fraud' in Texas: Rep. Aaron Peña
Tuesday, Mar 29, 2011, 02:22PM CST
By Steve Miller
mailbox

The House Elections Committee on Monday heard bills addressing absentee ballot fraud, measures aimed at reforming the mail-in ballot process in the state and making it tougher for individuals to alter election results.

 

“Assisted voter fraud is the largest growing fraud that we have,” state Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, told the committee. “It’s an outgrowth of the old boss system, and it has never really stopped.”

 

Peña has filed more than two dozens bills addressing voting laws, noting that the work of vote harvesters known as politiqueras is endemic to his South Texas region.

 

The committee heard his House Bill 2051, which would change the state election code to ensure that someone assisting a voter is not that voter’s employer, in order to stem possible influence on a vote. Under the bill, an assistant would be required to assert under oath that he or she is not an employer or agent of the employer before assisting the voter.

 

Another bill would make it easier for law enforcement to pursue felony charges for possessing ballots. Vote harvesters often take the ballots of those they have assisted to the post office.

 

Current law makes it a misdemeanor to possess 10 to 19 ballots, a felony to possess 20 or more. House Bill 2449, filed by Rep. Jose Aliseda, would allow authorities to consider ballot possession over the course of days to boost the penalty, rather than doling out smaller charges piecemeal.

Jose AlisedaALISEDA

“Just so you understand, these people, especially in South Texas, are often getting paid to collect these mail-in ballots,” Aliseda, R-Beeville, told the committee. “What we are trying to do is catch them in a scheme where they are perhaps deliberately trying to avoid the felony penalty by carrying less than 20 at a time. ... I can see how someone could avoid prosecution for a felony by being careful of how many ballots a day they collect.”

He said collecting ballots is enabled by county clerks, post office employees and even election administrators in some counties, who work with vote harvesters.

 

“Most of this is done in the homes of people 65 and older, people that you would think are competent but they are getting help from these vote harvesters in order to, quote, cast the right ballot," Aliseda said.

Aaron PenaPEÑA

Peña’s House Bill 2058 would make it a crime for someone to complete a mail-in ballot application for another without signing the application as an assistant, regardless of whether that work is done in the presence of the voter or not. Current law does not require that witness signature on the application, though it does on the ballot itself.

“People are not signing the application when they are helping, and there is no limit on how many people you can assist,” said Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David Glicker of the Texas Attorney General's Office, who attended Monday’s hearing as a witness. 

 

Once vote harvesters learn who is getting a mail-in ballot, they go to that person, who is often elderly or infirm, and ask if they can help them prepare their ballot.

 

In some cases, advocates for tougher laws say, a ballot is simply removed from the mail before it reaches the voter, with the vote harvester filling it out.

 

Also on Monday, a Senate bill that would make a mail-in ballot application unavailable to the general public until one day after the election moved closer to passage.

 

Senate Bill 997, authored by state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, passed the Senate State Affairs Committee, 8-0, and next moves to the full Senate. 

Election administrators in South Texas for years have asked Austin for help in controlling the politiqueras, meeting separately last year to plan a strategy to address lawmakers. 

It worked, as officials like Peña and Shapiro have responded. But is it enough?

 

"These bills all touch on mail-in ballot fraud, but so far it's just bits and pieces," said Rudy Montalvo, election administrator in Starr County in South

 

Texas and a legislative liaison for the Texas Association of Elections Administrators. "So many of these bills, they all touch on part of the problem, which is fine. This is a much better effort, though, than in previous years, when there was no effort at all."

 

A year ago, Montalvo said that Austin doesn't care about the voter fraud problem in South Texas.

 

"Now, I'm happy someone is talking about it," he said. "And I'll take anything I can get."

 

More bills will be heard next week, Peña said.

 

Some of those bills would toughen penalties, while others would make it easer to detect patterns of abuse of the voting system and investigate those abuses.

 

While he does not yet have an ally in the Senate, Peña said he expects to be able to recruit a sponsor.

 

“I don’t know that I can get re-elected after this,” Peña said. “But this is what has to be done.”

 

Texas Watchdog has documented the problem of mail-in ballot fraud in South Texas. Here are some of the stories:

***

Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.


Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpaceDiggFriendFeed, NewsVine and tumblr.


Photo of a mailbox by flickr user cjc4454, used via a Creative Commons license.

  • 1
Video
KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
Related Blogs and Media
TPPF's Derek Cohen on criminal penalty enhancements Our pal Derek Cohen at the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Effective Justice this week published a new public policy brief this...
Update:1 day 8 hours
Grits for Breakfast
City of Sugar Land changes course, posts notice to comply with open meetings act In an update to a story BJP first reported on May 29, 2016 titled “Are Fort Bend officials meeting in violation of the Texas open...
Update:1 day 11 hours
Big Jolly Politics
Failed Carson campaign spent heavily in April and May, routed funds to former staffers   Ben Carson endorses Donald Trump in Palm Beach on March 11, one week after Carson dropped his presidential bid. (AP Photo/Lynne...
Update:2 days 9 hours
Open Secrets
An Intensive List of the Nuisances, Dangers, and Animal Infiltrations at 2203 Crocker St. The agent who put the 16-year-old house at 2203 Crocker St. on the market this week wants to make sure you know exactly what you’re...
Update:2 days 10 hours
Swamplot
Swamplot Sponsor: These New 3-Bedroom Townhomes in Shady Acres Today this site is sponsored by the new townhomes at 938 W. 22nd St. in Shady Acres — namely Unit B, Unit C, and Unit D....
Update:2 days 12 hours
Swamplot
Avenue Grill Only Lightly Toasted By This Morning’s Electrical Fire The holdup on Houston Ave. this morning, reports a reader stuck in the resulting traffic, is the aftermath of a minor fire at the...
Update:2 days 13 hours
Swamplot
Excessive Galveston Beach Bacteria Probably Not Leg-Threatening, Just Fecal, Say Officials Scott Packard assures KHOU this week that the beach advisories put out by the Galveston County Health District lately aren’t...
Update:2 days 15 hours
Swamplot
The Wait for the Uptown Bus Lanes; New Plans for Midtown’s Greensheet Building Greensheet Property in Midtown Sold, To Be Redeveloped for Retail, Office, Event Space [Realty News Report] South Heights Retail Center...
Update:2 days 16 hours
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: Rubble Respite A reprieve just in time for the weekend – we’ll return as soon as technical difficulties with the city’s permit reporting...
Update:2 days 16 hours
Swamplot
VIDEO: Marvin Zindler's 'Slime in the Ice Machine' tease with Mike McGuff Mike McGuff gets to yell "Slime in the Ice Machine" for Marvin Zindler Here's a throwback for you... When I was interning at KTRK abc13...
Update:3 days 3 hours
Mike McGuff
Were supporters of ALAC simply architects of a giant scam? With the publication of a letter opinion by the Texas Attorney General’s office, voters across Texas might now wonder if supporters of...
Update:3 days 4 hours
Big Jolly Politics
Spring Home Listing Photo of the Day: First Impressions 25559 Forest Springs Lake [HAR] … Read...
Update:3 days 7 hours
Swamplot
Tout Suite Tears Down the Wall at Memorial City Mall Tout Suite’s second outpost is now open in the pedestrian crossroads at the west end of Memorial City Mall. The kiosk version of...
Update:3 days 8 hours
Swamplot
UK, Texas Secessionists Now Watching Brexit Ballot Count Meanwhile, in London: The polls just closed following today’s national referendum on leaving the European Union, with...
Update:3 days 8 hours
Swamplot
Shots from a Doomed Allen Center Skybridge of a Companion Meeting Its Fate Currently underway: the partial disassembly of 1 of the 2 skybridges connecting One and Two Allen Center at the corner of Dallas and...
Update:3 days 10 hours
Swamplot
The Groove. Or, getting back into it. Football season is coming and that means a whole new chance to make bad football picks for the coming year.  To try, hopelessly, to...
Update:3 days 10 hours
Cory Crow
Ilona Carson delivers! KTRK abc13 anchor Ilona Carson has baby girl for first time Last January, I told you how KTRK abc13 anchor Ilona Carson was expecting...
Update:3 days 11 hours
Mike McGuff
Swamplot Sponsor: This Brick Midcentury Home with a Pool in Avalon Place Thanks today go to the 2,608-sq.-ft., 3-bedroom home at 2415 Avalon Pl., checking in as Swamplot’s Sponsor of the Day! If you dream...
Update:3 days 12 hours
Swamplot
Lying cops, ticket quotas, junk science and Naloxone Here are a few odds and ends which merit Grits readers attention even if I don't have time to blow each of them out into individual...
Update:3 days 13 hours
Grits for Breakfast
TIRZ 8 Now Studying Where the Sidewalks End Near Hobby, How to Pretty Them Up The Gulfgate-Mall-seeded TIRZ that absorbed many of the commercial corridors around Hobby Airport back in 2014 has been weighing plans...
Update:3 days 13 hours
Swamplot
UH Ready for Legal Action over South Texas College of Law’s Houston Rebranding “It has come to the University of Houston’s attention that South Texas College of Law has announced that it is changing its name to...
Update:3 days 15 hours
Swamplot
Mixed-Use for an Allen Parkway Brownfield Site; Homeownership Rates Sink Development with Hotel, Housing, Shops, Office Tower Planned for Remaining 6 Acres of Gillette St. Incinerator Site in Fourth...
Update:3 days 16 hours
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: Sherwood Shanked Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. Such royal...
Update:3 days 16 hours
Swamplot
Fourth Amendment body blows The Fourth Amendment has suffered some major recent body blows. We've already discussed how the Supreme Court of Texas okayed cops...
Update:3 days 19 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Greater scrutiny coming for Texas police shootings The stories of Texans shot by police will receive a lot more scrutiny soon.The Texas Tribune has launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay...
Update:3 days 20 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Cameras, cameras everywhere, but who can see the footage? Cameras are changing 21st century policing and debates this week in Austin typify two examples how:1. Check out an article by Tony...
Update:4 days 3 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Woodlands Home Listing Photo of the Day: Permission First 82 Windward Cv. [HAR] … Read...
Update:4 days 7 hours
Swamplot
Comment of the Day: Lamenting the Loss of Flaunted Houston Highrise Heights “Boo! Are times so lean that a company can’t show off its greatness by allowing the public to partake of their rarified views? Is...
Update:4 days 8 hours
Swamplot
With presidential fundraising not far behind him, Rubio gears up for Senate race Also-ran presidential candidate Marco Rubio announced today he would attempt to stay in the U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File) Marco...
Update:4 days 10 hours
Open Secrets
Did South Texas Law Just Become Houston’s First “College”? Downtown’s South Texas College of Law just announced that the 93-year-old school is changing its name to Houston College of Law. A...
Update:4 days 10 hours
Swamplot
KHOU 11 makes major anchor changes Morning, evening, night, weekend anchor changes at KHOU 11 KHOU 11 is going through major, major anchor changes. In fact, in my time...
Update:4 days 11 hours
Mike McGuff
Tookie’s Now Selling Seafood on Stilts in Seabrook Seabrook’s Tookie’s Burgers’ new marine-minded companion is up and running this week at 1106 Bayport Blvd. The...
Update:4 days 12 hours
Swamplot
Swamplot Sponsor: This Converted 1915 Home in Avondale West Today’s sponsor is a 100-plus-year-old home in Montrose’s Avondale neighborhood that’s been converted for use as a...
Update:4 days 12 hours
Swamplot
Hanover Montrose Looking Increasingly Pale as Opening Nears The eastern face of 3400 Montrose Blvd. appears to be losing color this week as the building’s mid-August opening looms ever...
Update:4 days 13 hours
Swamplot
The Firing of Trebor Gordon Section 1983 Section 1983 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code is part of the Enforcement Act or Civil Rights Act of 1871. This provision was...
Update:4 days 14 hours
Big Jolly Politics
Houston’s Adandoned Shopping Cart Problem; High-Tech Mosquito Traps Roll Out Patterson-UTI Energy Leaving Greenspoint for New Headquarters in Remington Square II Office Park [Houston Chronicle] The River Oaks Condo...
Update:4 days 16 hours
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: Harold Heralded Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. It was the...
Update:4 days 16 hours
Swamplot
Federal judge orders Pack Unit to supply un-contaminated water This news could bump the Pack Unit up on the list of the most likely next TDCJ units the Legislature may consider closing. From the Houston...
Update:4 days 19 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Home Listing Photo of the Day: A Gentler Reminder 1111 E 7th 1/2 St. [HAR; more here] … Read...
Update:5 days 7 hours
Swamplot
One Last Look from the Chase Tower Observation Deck, Now Closed to the Public You’ve missed your last chance to catch a view like these from the Chase Tower at 600 Travis St., unless you’re there on...
Update:5 days 8 hours
Swamplot
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 4 years 1 week
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 4 years 1 week
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 4 years 1 week
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 4 years 1 week
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 4 years 1 week
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 4 years 1 week
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 4 years 1 week
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 4 years 1 week
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
San Antonio Current | 4 years 1 week
Go ahead, chalk it up http://t.co/YMWpC5wM #satx #chalkitup
Caller.com | 4 years 1 week
Scanner: Bathroom on fire in 600 block of Virginia, CC fire dept. on the way
Ballotpedia | 4 years 1 week
Does your state offer early voting? Do you qualify? Find out! #election2012 http://t.co/eodxBYVD
Dallas Morning News | 4 years 1 week
Why a Dallas-area cycling coach believed Lance Armstrong was drug-free (video) http://t.co/gURdYkj1
Caller.com | 4 years 1 week
Dozens of illegal waste dumpers sentenced in Jim Wells Co.; others on the run: http://t.co/NgerCdsQ
Karen Townsend | 4 years 1 week
Consistently impressed w/raullabrador when I listen to him in Congressional hearings. #Libya
Cory Crow | 4 years 1 week
Diigo: United raises fares by up to $10 per round trip - Business - http://t.co/kWY8gwPV http://t.co/bw25JP5R
News 4 WOAI | 4 years 1 week
If you see news in or around San Antonio 'SEND IT' to @NEWS4WOAI here: http://t.co/uMqbMXQv OR email us at: NEWSDESK@WOAITV.COM
swamplot | 4 years 1 week
Mining Houston Garbage for Recycling and Compost Gold http://t.co/HMMBArMX
swamplot | 4 years 1 week
Daily Demolition Report: Tulane Highway http://t.co/JXmkSx11
KFDA NewsChannel10 | 4 years 1 week
Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues http://t.co/y3VrPfkM
Williamson County | 4 years 1 week
Mental Health Awareness Week FREE Webinar:"Understanding Depression-How to Help You or a Loved One" Thurs,Oct 11@1pm-https://t.co/YUWi19WY
© 2016 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement