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
Galveston Home Listing Photo of the Day: Let’s Get This Party Started 1721 61st St. [HAR] … Read...
Update:33 min 16 sec
Swamplot
Comment of the Day: How Your Photos Too Can Ooze That Slick but Other-World-y Real Estate Look “1.) Get a wide lens 2.) Shoot with a 7 stop bracket 3.) Comp exposures and tone in 8 bit 4.) Crank up to 32 floating point because...
Update:1 hour 33 min
Swamplot
Old Katy Home Juices Up the Joint: $300K Down-home and modern, kicky and a bit sweet, a colorized slice of old Katy living — with a century’s-worth of...
Update:2 hours 32 min
Swamplot
Brand New Design for a 33-Story San Felipe Residential Tower Now Ready To Be Admired Onscreen Are we once again entering the “mightaswell” stage in the Houston real estate lifecycle? You know — the season for...
Update:3 hours 47 min
Swamplot
Keystone Opponents Favored by Environmental Groups, But the Checks Were Smaller People rally to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline in front of the White House January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo by Olivier...
Update:5 hours 30 sec
Open Secrets
JANUARY 30 / Governor Abbott just said no to . . . . . . crony capitalism. Good on him. AUSTIN -- Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday proposed . . . . . . abolishing Texas' controversial Emerging...
Update:5 hours 28 min
Unca Darrell
Daily Demolition Report: Henry Clay Landing a big one in Sherwood Forest. And Dairyland is no more. Commercial Structures Dairyland Restaurant, 310 Cavalcade St....
Update:5 hours 48 min
Swamplot
Online Home Searches by Commute Time; Freedmen’s Town Bricks Dispute Goes to Mediation Camden Property Trust CEO Says Financial Backers Now Redlining Houston Area Because of Downturn [Houston Chronicle] $8M in Renovations of...
Update:7 hours 2 min
Swamplot
Defending the Rule of Law in Afghanistan
Update:14 hours 55 min
Houston's Clear Thinkers
Crony power grab in Montgomery County complete; new County Judge appointed to The Woodlands RUD In a act of political chicanery you’d think was smack dab out of Washington DC, Montgomery County Commissioners voted 4-1 on Monday...
Update:19 hours 21 min
Big Jolly Politics
Keystone Senate Yea Votes: Seven Times More Oil & Gas Money Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., sponsor of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, right, joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., talks...
Update:19 hours 23 min
Open Secrets
House committee: Raise age of criminal culpability from 17-18 The Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in its interim report (pdf) recommended raising the age of criminal culpability from 17 to...
Update:23 hours 28 min
Grits for Breakfast
A Glassy MC2 Tiltwall Mansion in Pine Wood Estates’ First 100 Days on the Market, All at $4.99M Which way is the view? From the balcony beneath the cantilevered section that marks the entry of the Modern mansion on nearly an acre...
Update:23 hours 32 min
Swamplot
Back of Richmont Square Now Erased for New Menil Drawing Institute The back third of the Menil-owned Richmont Square Apartments has now been cleared away. Left to dispose of: a below-grade swimming pool in...
Update:1 day 3 min
Swamplot
Third Ward Fans Are Throwing a Party To Destroy the Flower Man’s Toxic and Art-Filled House, and Y’All Are Invited Where else but Houston will you ever come across a day-long urban celebration that brings together demolition, visionary art, inventive...
Update:1 day 2 hours
Swamplot
Inside Intelligence: About Those Handgun Laws... With rallies touting the open carry of handguns and school vouchers bookending the week, we...
Update:1 day 2 hours
Texas Tribune
JANUARY 29 / Sowell on how central planning never works but never gives way to what does SOME OF THE MOST SWEEPING and spectacular rhetoric of the Left occurred in 18th-century France, where the very concept of the Left...
Update:1 day 3 hours
Unca Darrell
Repeal of Medical Device Tax More Likely With Friends Across Party Lines Minnesota Sen. Al Franken is one of the Democrats cosponsoring a repeal of the medical device tax. (AP Photo/Jim Mone) Nearly five years...
Update:1 day 3 hours
Open Secrets
WFAA uses iPhone to tape half-hour show WFAA 8 Dallas shows us the future of TV: The reporter and the iPhone If you work in TV, then you've probably heard someone say at one...
Update:1 day 5 hours
Mike McGuff
Daily Demolition Report: Twin Falls Down Crushing blows available for any occasion, especially these: Commercial Structures Any Occasion Party Rental, 5702 Jessamine St. 77081...
Update:1 day 6 hours
Swamplot
Whistleblower lab worker punished for Houston officer's mistake Following up on the story of errors at the Houston crime lab that led to dismissal of felony DWI charges, Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa...
Update:1 day 6 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Hits keep on coming for TX civil commitment program Between a new state audit generating unfavorable stories like these:Houston Chronicle: Scathing audit paints sex offender agency in...
Update:1 day 6 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Renting Out the ExxonMobil Tower for Police Business; Houston’s Arts and Culture Rack Up Sales Kimco Realty Corp. Has Acquired 64 Acres Near Grand Parkway Extension for 400K-SF Retail Power Center [Houston Business Journal] City...
Update:1 day 7 hours
Swamplot
Report: Juvie deincarceraton in Texas coincided with large crime declines A brief note from AP previewed a report on the Texas juvenile justice system coming out today:A new study concludes that the Texas juvenile...
Update:1 day 8 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Slapshot II
Update:1 day 14 hours
Houston's Clear Thinkers
Where is my residence? Ask the new Montgomery County Judge Documents obtained by yours truly indicate seven people in Montgomery County, Texas are registered to vote at the address of 501 North...
Update:1 day 18 hours
Big Jolly Politics
Texas saw 615 deaths in custody statewide in 2014; more than 400 at TDCJ Because the MSM covers the death penalty so closely, one frequently sees headlines like this one - "Texas inmate set to die Wednesday gets...
Update:1 day 22 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Dream Team 5509 Wipprecht St. [HAR] … Read...
Update:1 day 23 hours
Swamplot
K Street: Return to Normalcy, or a New Normal? President Obama signs the farm bill last February, a likely reason for the drop in 2014 lobbying spending by certain agricultural and food...
Update:1 day 23 hours
Open Secrets
Catch All the Angles on a $1.1 Million House on a St. George Place Corner If you’re feeling a little tipsy as you tour this 1998 custom home on Lampasas St. in St. George Place (the Galleria-area...
Update:2 days 3 min
Swamplot
The Kirby Court Apartments Have Been Emptied Out, but Hanover Says Purchase of Site for Tower Has Stalled The end of the year marked the end of residency for all tenants of the Kirby Court Apartments. Renters of the 2-story 1949 townhouse-style...
Update:2 days 1 hour
Swamplot
A List of 17 Fashionable Houston Newcomers Headed for River Oaks This Year Who’ll End Up on the Other Side of the Tracks John Lobb, Akris, Kiton, Moncler, De Boulle, Giuseppe Zanotti, Etro, Chopard, Canali, Brunello Cucinelli, Brioni, Diptyque, Bonobos,...
Update:2 days 2 hours
Swamplot
Opens from bad 70s TV, 80 sci-fi shows and kid television Ahhh...the memories. From bad 70s TV, 80s sci-fi TV to kiddie shows, the opens you can't forget (or maybe you can actually.) ...
Update:2 days 3 hours
Mike McGuff
14 Months of Runaround: More on How to Obtain (or Not) Public Documents From the IRS Obtaining Rosebush Corp.’s 2012 tax form — supposedly a public document — required traveling quite an obstacle...
Update:2 days 4 hours
Open Secrets
Daily Demolition Report: Rolla Way Out Just can’t have it anymore. Got to let go. Commercial Structures SCD Capitol Tower of Houston, 858 Capitol St. 77002 (6-story...
Update:2 days 6 hours
Swamplot
Tuscan Townhomes for Memorial Dr., French Chateau Apartments for West Gray; Testing Door-to-Door Metro Bus Service Houston Ranked No. 1 on Forbes’ Annual List of America’s Fastest-Growing Cities 2015 [Forbes] Houston Area Absorbed a...
Update:2 days 7 hours
Swamplot
Addiction and Obesity
Update:2 days 15 hours
Houston's Clear Thinkers
A Classic Eastwood Home for Watching All the Neighbors, Trains, and Redevelopment Go By, for Lease at $2,300 Deep porches on an updated 1915 Eastwood home listed for lease look toward a residential street lined with similarly neighborly vantage...
Update:2 days 22 hours
Swamplot
Julia’s Bistro in Midtown Has Entered a Dark, Quiet Period “What’s up with Julia’s?” writes the Swamplot reader who got a Main St. train to slow down enough to snap the photo of the...
Update:2 days 23 hours
Swamplot
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Tub Door 2216 Chilton Rd. [HAR] … Read...
Update:3 days 17 min
Swamplot
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 2 years 6 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 2 years 6 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 2 years 6 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 2 years 6 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 2 years 6 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 | 2 years 6 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 2 years 6 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 2 years 6 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
San Antonio Current | 2 years 6 months
Go ahead, chalk it up http://t.co/YMWpC5wM #satx #chalkitup
Caller.com | 2 years 6 months
Scanner: Bathroom on fire in 600 block of Virginia, CC fire dept. on the way
Ballotpedia | 2 years 6 months
Does your state offer early voting? Do you qualify? Find out! #election2012 http://t.co/eodxBYVD
Dallas Morning News | 2 years 6 months
Why a Dallas-area cycling coach believed Lance Armstrong was drug-free (video) http://t.co/gURdYkj1
Caller.com | 2 years 6 months
Dozens of illegal waste dumpers sentenced in Jim Wells Co.; others on the run: http://t.co/NgerCdsQ
Karen Townsend | 2 years 6 months
Consistently impressed w/raullabrador when I listen to him in Congressional hearings. #Libya
Cory Crow | 2 years 6 months
Diigo: United raises fares by up to $10 per round trip - Business - http://t.co/kWY8gwPV http://t.co/bw25JP5R
News 4 WOAI | 2 years 6 months
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 | 2 years 6 months
Mining Houston Garbage for Recycling and Compost Gold http://t.co/HMMBArMX
swamplot | 2 years 6 months
Daily Demolition Report: Tulane Highway http://t.co/JXmkSx11
KFDA NewsChannel10 | 2 years 6 months
Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues http://t.co/y3VrPfkM
Williamson County | 2 years 6 months
Mental Health Awareness Week FREE Webinar:"Understanding Depression-How to Help You or a Loved One" Thurs,Oct 11@1pm-https://t.co/YUWi19WY
© 2015 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement