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

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

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, 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
KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
Related Blogs and Media
Daily Demolition Report: Cinnamon Begin Again We’d ship these far away, but there just isn’t a box big enough. Commercial and Community Structures McGowen Street Resale...
Update:1 hour 11 min
Curbside Recycling for Everyone; How To Eat All That Galveston Seaweed Construction Starts on Petroleum Club’s New Downtown Digs on Top Floor of Total Plaza at 1201 Louisiana [Prime Property] Video:...
Update:1 hour 56 min
10 Games (Week 4): Some progress is better than none at all. First up: Just shut-up Mr. Solomon. Never-mind that the piece was over-long, poorly-written, and one huge logical fallacy, there's also the...
Update:2 hours 5 min
Cory Crow
Happy Birthday to us — blog meetup Saturday (Sept 20) Ten years ago this month, a few of us threw open the doors to this little blog about Houston-area politics and media. Contributors have...
Update:2 hours 26 min
Searching for the Crashless Car Searching for the Crashless Car from The New York Times – Video on...
Update:10 hours 28 min
Houston's Clear Thinkers
Wallace Hall grand jury likely convening next month AUSTIN – Grand jury proceedings into University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall likely won’t get underway until next month,...
Update:16 hours 15 min
San Antonio Express-News
Libertarian candidate for governor: Abbott, Perry won’t ‘stop Obama’ AUSTIN — Libertarian Kathie Glass started running ads online Monday for her long-shot bid to disrupt the gubernatorial race, positioning...
Update:16 hours 30 min
San Antonio Express-News
Legend of K Street Helped Industry Boom Thomas Hale Boggs Jr. was a huge force in the lobbying industry. ( It’s hard to overstate the significance to K...
Update:17 hours 28 min
Open Secrets
Yes, Gotta Give ’Em Credit for All the Fake Grass in the Back Yard If you’re wondering what an expanse of fake grass is doing in the back yard of a $1.345 million home around the corner from...
Update:18 hours 41 min
2014 Lone Star EMMY nominees list 12th annual Lone Star Emmy Awards nominations Congrats to all of the 2014 Lone Star EMMY nominees in the quest for the coveted 12th annual...
Update:18 hours 50 min
Mike McGuff
Updated: Legislators continuing abuse In a show of defiance against the citizens of Texas, two lawmakers have issued a letter hinting that abusive influence by legislators at...
Update:19 hours 13 min
Accusations fly in the race for Texas governor Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis each claim their opponent is trying to draw attention away from improper political...
Update:19 hours 16 min
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Comptroller candidate calls for changes after Express-News Formula One investigation SAN ANTONIO — Mike Collier, the Democratic candidate for state comptroller, called on the Legislature to move the Major Events Trust Fund...
Update:19 hours 29 min
San Antonio Express-News
Study claims Texas textbooks ‘distort’ climate change McGraw-Hill World Cultures & Geography textbook AUSTIN – Yet another group is questioning the integrity of Texas’ proposed social...
Update:20 hours 19 min
San Antonio Express-News
TV station lawsuit, offensive tweets and more media news from around Texas The Houston and Texas media stories going on while I was on a blogging break MORE VIDEO - Best News Bloopers July 2014 - KHOU 11 Weather...
Update:20 hours 27 min
Mike McGuff
Galleria Whole Foods Market Opening November 6, Will Include Austin-Import Beer-on-a-Trike The long-awaited BLVD Place Whole Foods Market will finally open on November 6, reports the HBJ‘s Jenny Agee-Aldridge. And the...
Update:21 hours 26 min
The Latest Designs for Metro’s Big Harrisburg Blvd. Overpass in the East End Metro has posted the latest designs for the enormous Hughes St. overpass along Harrisburg Blvd. on the far-east segment of the East End...
Update:22 hours 26 min
Texas voters face a much longer ballot in November The governor’s race is the tip of an electoral iceberg that includes everything from street and school bonds to statewide...
Update:1 day 35 min
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Daily Demolition Report: Chevy Chaser Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. The earth must...
Update:1 day 1 hour
Davis commercial: Abbott ignored rape claims at state-run school AUSTIN — State Sen. Wendy Davis’ campaign for governor released a TV ad Monday accusing opponent Greg Abbott of looking the other way...
Update:1 day 1 hour
San Antonio Express-News
Abbott versus Davis: A Real Campaign It is so refreshing to watch the Abbott and Davis campaigns. Greg Abbott is campaigning vigorously and rising to the challenge of engaging...
Update:1 day 1 hour
Nancy Sims' Ponderings
More Dunkin’ Donuts for Houston; Galveston’s Mosquito Problem Frost Bank To Open New Regional Headquarters This Week on Ground Floor of BLVD Place [Prime Property] Memorial-Area Senior Community The...
Update:1 day 1 hour
Crime reduction rates show little link to incarceration The justification for mass incarceration has always been public safety. But this new analysis from the Pew Charitable Trust shows that...
Update:1 day 2 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Deputy seeks sex offender dick pics A Sheriff's deputy in Wise County has been arrested in a bizarre incident. Sgt. Chad Hightower told sex offenders the state now required...
Update:1 day 2 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Why Austin property taxes are so high Austin pays our cops too much, has too many of them, and most of our city council is in the pocket of the police union. So thanks to Bill...
Update:1 day 2 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Texas' mandatory blood draw statute on DWI under fire Texas' warrantless blood draw statute has been challenged and in some cases declared unconstitutional by intermediate state appellate...
Update:1 day 2 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Abbott TV ad pledges to ‘keep Texas number one in jobs’ AUSTIN — Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott is using his latest TV ad for the general election to present himself as the only...
Update:1 day 4 hours
San Antonio Express-News
SEPTEMBER 15 / More evidence Mitt Romney would have . . . . . . made a better president: The arguments for shrinking our military fall aside to reveal the real reason for the cuts: Politicians, and...
Update:1 day 8 hours
Unca Darrell
Robbing the Bank from the Inside
Update:1 day 10 hours
Houston's Clear Thinkers
Updated: Empower Texans looks to make a Houston home Michael Quinn Sullivan, the president of Empower Texans, speaking to the Midland County Republican Women in July. HOUSTON — Empower...
Update:1 day 16 hours
San Antonio Express-News
Deaths in custody near-daily events in Texas According to this list on the Attorney General's website, there have been 3,680 peole who've died in custody of state and local law...
Update:2 days 2 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Lyons' wrongful termination suit vs. TDCJ reinstated Former TDCJ flak Michelle Lyons saw her wrongful termination lawsuit against the agency reinstated last week after the 5th Circuit Court of...
Update:2 days 3 hours
Grits for Breakfast
US Attorney in DC to create conviction integrity unit It's always nice to see good ideas spreading. The US Attorney in Washington, D.C. is creating a conviction integrity unit modeled on Dallas...
Update:2 days 4 hours
Grits for Breakfast
The Homesman
Update:2 days 7 hours
Houston's Clear Thinkers
SEPTEMBER 14 / David French on how Christians . . . . . . should respond to the latest iteration of radical Islamism. Even in the face of jihadist horror, it's surprising how many Christians...
Update:2 days 9 hours
Unca Darrell
SEPTEMBER 12 / Dems gain a step. Now it's . . . . . . 51-49 for the GOP in the U.S. Senate, according to Real Clear Politics's "Senate No Toss Ups" screen, down one. North Carolina has...
Update:2 days 18 hours
Unca Darrell
Prosecutors withheld evidence in shaky Dallas murder convictions Two Dallas men convicted of the 1999 murder of a Dallas pastor are seeking to be declared innocent, or at least receive a new trial, "on...
Update:2 days 18 hours
Grits for Breakfast
PoliTex: What do you call a former president and his first lady? Wendy Davis recognizes some familiar footwear during a book signing in Fort...
Update:2 days 20 hours
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The Playlist: Reefer Man News broke that Joe Allbaugh, a former GOP confidante to George W....
Update:2 days 21 hours
Texas Tribune
Corporations are people who don't go to jail when they commit crimes Although corporations are presumed to be people when it comes to campaign contributions, per the US Supreme Court's Citizens United...
Update:2 days 22 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Karen Townsend | 2 years 1 month
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" -
Peter Corbett ✈ | 2 years 1 month
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy
KERA Public Media | 2 years 1 month
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour.
PBS MediaShift | 2 years 1 month
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 2 years 1 month
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services"
TxDOT | 2 years 1 month
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact
keyetv | 2 years 1 month
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested.
Karen Townsend | 2 years 1 month
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
San Antonio Current | 2 years 1 month
Go ahead, chalk it up #satx #chalkitup | 2 years 1 month
Scanner: Bathroom on fire in 600 block of Virginia, CC fire dept. on the way
Ballotpedia | 2 years 1 month
Does your state offer early voting? Do you qualify? Find out! #election2012
Dallas Morning News | 2 years 1 month
Why a Dallas-area cycling coach believed Lance Armstrong was drug-free (video) | 2 years 1 month
Dozens of illegal waste dumpers sentenced in Jim Wells Co.; others on the run:
Karen Townsend | 2 years 1 month
Consistently impressed w/raullabrador when I listen to him in Congressional hearings. #Libya
Cory Crow | 2 years 1 month
Diigo: United raises fares by up to $10 per round trip - Business -
News 4 WOAI | 2 years 1 month
If you see news in or around San Antonio 'SEND IT' to @NEWS4WOAI here: OR email us at: NEWSDESK@WOAITV.COM
swamplot | 2 years 1 month
Mining Houston Garbage for Recycling and Compost Gold
swamplot | 2 years 1 month
Daily Demolition Report: Tulane Highway
KFDA NewsChannel10 | 2 years 1 month
Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues
Williamson County | 2 years 1 month
Mental Health Awareness Week FREE Webinar:"Understanding Depression-How to Help You or a Loved One" Thurs,Oct 11@1pm-
© 2014 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement