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
West University Home Listing Photo of the Day: Holding Court 5402 Buffalo Spdwy. [HAR] … Read...
Update:34 min 50 sec
Swamplot
Where Those 14 De Menil Artist Houses Will Fit Into Acres Homes Here’s a rendering of the 3-acre strip of property currently being rebranded as NoLo Studios. Per the drawings released earlier...
Update:1 hour 4 min
Swamplot
Comment of the Day: How To Ease Houston Into the Zoning Zone “Another example of the city’s zoning-style regulations that have been built up over the last 20 years or so. They couldn’t get...
Update:2 hours 4 min
Swamplot
STUDY: Outside groups, secret money far more prominent than ever before In the long debate over the changing nature of election advertising, one thing is now clearer than ever: Outside groups that can raise and...
Update:3 hours 50 min
Open Secrets
How a Former Enron Trader Brought Hi-Res Aerial Surveillance to Baltimore A report from Monte Reel this week reveals that the Baltimore police department has been running a secret surveillance-by-Cessna program...
Update:4 hours 4 min
Swamplot
Local #BlackLivesMatter police policy agenda pragmatic, achievable The missus has been volunteering this year with the Austin Justice Coalition, and I really liked their recently announced agenda on police...
Update:4 hours 34 min
Grits for Breakfast
KIII Corpus Christi wins every local newscast July 2016 sweeps Corpus Christi, TX (August 24, 2016) – KIII-TV, a TEGNA Company, announced today that the results of the July Nielsen ratings period...
Update:5 hours 47 min
Mike McGuff
Swamplot Sponsor: This 3-Story Houston Heights 3-Bedroom Home The home at 205 E. 5th St. in the Houston Heights is sponsoring this site today. Swamplot appreciates the support! The main living spaces...
Update:6 hours 19 min
Swamplot
Montrose La Tapatia Returns from Month-Long Smoke Break The Richmond Ave branch of La Tapatia at the corner of Woodhead St. is back in operation this week after the late summer toasting of its...
Update:7 hours 49 min
Swamplot
The Latest Houston Sublease Numbers; It’s HOU, Not HTX On Average 580,000 SF of Sublease Space Becomes Available Each Month in Houston, Finds JLL [HBJ; previously on Swamplot] Hines’...
Update:9 hours 49 min
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: Old Oaks Felled Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. Memorial...
Update:10 hours 19 min
Swamplot
The Woodlands Home Listing Photo of the Day: Beyond the Veils 3 Rambling Springs Way [HAR] … Read...
Update:1 day 20 min
Swamplot
The Setback Setbacks at 1403 McGowen St. Signage up on McGowen between La Branch and Austin streets heralds the property owner’s recent request for a few variances...
Update:1 day 34 min
Swamplot
HCDE Declares War on Texas Taxpayers Since the video surfaced of HCDE’s superintendent outlining his battle plan AGAINST the taxpayers, Texans deserve to know exactly who...
Update:1 day 2 hours
Texas Trash Talk
Matching River Oaks Mansion Free with Your $5.4-Million Playhouse Purchase The air-conditioned 2-story playhouse at 36 Tiel Way is on the market as of last Friday, along with its 5-bedroom mansion mate. The...
Update:1 day 5 hours
Swamplot
Swamplot Sponsor: The Soon-To-Be Former Gospel Truth Pentecostal Church Building on 34th St. in Oak Forest Today’s Sponsor of the Day post comes to us from Crescere Capital Management, with an announcement about the Gospel Truth...
Update:1 day 6 hours
Swamplot
Spotlight on private prisons: lobbying and otherwise Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced in a memo Thursday that the Justice Department will stop using private prisons. (AP Photo/J....
Update:1 day 6 hours
Open Secrets
59 Diner’s Zig-Zaggy 249 Outpost Clears Out To Join Up with Dimassi’s With the Mattress Firm peeking in from the left and the Office Depot edging in from the right, here’s the former 59 Diner across...
Update:1 day 7 hours
Swamplot
Fuzzy’s Taco Shop’s Continued Takeover; Grand Parkway Pros and Cons Average Rent for Houston-Area Apartment Falls 2.2% Year-Over-Year in July to $1,082 [Houston Chronicle] Homeowners Need To Earn $52,275...
Update:1 day 9 hours
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: For Devon’s Sake Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. Throwing the...
Update:1 day 10 hours
Swamplot
AUGUST 21 / Too bad Ryan Lochte is not Hillary Clinton SO SAYS the indispensable Rush. Mr. Lochte lies and is ruined. Ms. Clinton lies and . . . gets nominated by her party for president. In...
Update:1 day 18 hours
Unca Darrell
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: All Sense of Proportion 36 Tiel Way [HAR] … Read...
Update:2 days 35 min
Swamplot
Comment of the Day: Returning To Restore Montrose and Midtown’s Rightful Territories “I spent some time away from my beloved Houston. When I returned I found that ‘the Fourth Ward’ had been replaced with...
Update:2 days 1 hour
Swamplot
The UT Austin Segregation Lawsuit That Made TSU Houston’s First Public University A recounting of some Houston higher-ed history comes from Ben Werlund this past weekend — namely, how University of Houston and...
Update:2 days 1 hour
Swamplot
RNC pulls worst fundraising numbers in recent years Reince Priebus is chairman of the Republican National Committee. The RNC brought in the lowest fundraising July this year in the past four...
Update:2 days 3 hours
Open Secrets
PHOTOS: Houston Life debuts on #KPRC2 with a zombie Houston Life debuts on KPRC 2 with a quick paced format Just like a bunch of other Houstonians' first day today, the hosts and crew of...
Update:2 days 3 hours
Mike McGuff
Buffalo Fred’s Ice House Price Now Down to $3.25 Million on N. Shepherd After a month or so on the market at $3.75 million, the asking price on Buffalo Fred’s Ice House has dropped by half a million as...
Update:2 days 4 hours
Swamplot
Swamplot Sponsor: Honey Art Cafe Our sponsor today is Honey Art Cafe, set to open this fall at the northwest corner of Richmond and S. Shepherd Dr. in Upper Kirby. Thanks...
Update:2 days 6 hours
Swamplot
AUGUST 22 / Sorry for the shutdown UNCA D will try to resume regular blogging on September 1. I shut down the site a few weeks back to deal with real life, including planning...
Update:2 days 6 hours
Unca Darrell
Doomed Richmont Square Apartments Now Accessorizing Before Going Out The remaining 2 thirds of the vacant Richmont Square complex are getting a few exterior decorating touches, a reader notes —...
Update:2 days 6 hours
Swamplot
91.7 NGEN KXNG lineup NGEN radio, sister station of KSBJ, calls for Houston to “Change Your Tune” as the station expands its reach with the launch of 91.7FM....
Update:2 days 7 hours
Mike McGuff
Preserving Acres Homes’ Rural Charms; Eureka Heights Brewing Now Brewing in the Heights Saudi Basic Industries Corp. Triples Space at 2500 CityWest in Westchase [Houston Chronicle] One Hermann Place Looking to Lure Renters...
Update:2 days 9 hours
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: No Code Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. New beginnings...
Update:2 days 10 hours
Swamplot
Beyond Abortion – Protecting Life in the Womb The right to life movement is rightly concerned with curtailing abortion. However, with the stinging defeat of HB2 perhaps it’s time...
Update:2 days 20 hours
Big Jolly Politics
How to opt out of telemarketing and direct mail Telemarketer calls, preapproved credit offers, good old fashioned junk mail, direct solicitation emails. They’re all as annoying as...
Update:3 days 1 hour
Big Jolly Politics
VIDEO: Olympics TV bloopers ...
Update:3 days 3 hours
Mike McGuff
How much could local taxpayers save by eliminating arrests for petty misdemeanors? In Kentucky, legislators are facing a revanchist push by Democrats to overturn 2011 legislation passed by that Republican-controlled body...
Update:3 days 5 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Lone Star College System trustees approve move to majority elections They’ve conducted their elections by plurality vote and out-of-compliance with the Texas Education Code requiring majority vote so the...
Update:3 days 6 hours
Big Jolly Politics
Texas Lege should decarcerate, close prisons to cut TDCJ budget The Texas Department of Criminal Justice released its legislative appropriations request last week, but declined to identify four percent...
Update:3 days 8 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Threats of death coerced false testimony in Waco innocence case A judge in Waco recommended granting a habeas corpus writ on "actual innocence" grounds in a case which demonstrates the risks of false...
Update:4 days 11 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 4 years 2 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 4 years 2 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 4 years 2 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 4 years 2 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 4 years 2 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 | 4 years 2 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 4 years 2 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 4 years 2 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
San Antonio Current | 4 years 2 months
Go ahead, chalk it up http://t.co/YMWpC5wM #satx #chalkitup
Caller.com | 4 years 2 months
Scanner: Bathroom on fire in 600 block of Virginia, CC fire dept. on the way
Ballotpedia | 4 years 2 months
Does your state offer early voting? Do you qualify? Find out! #election2012 http://t.co/eodxBYVD
Dallas Morning News | 4 years 2 months
Why a Dallas-area cycling coach believed Lance Armstrong was drug-free (video) http://t.co/gURdYkj1
Caller.com | 4 years 2 months
Dozens of illegal waste dumpers sentenced in Jim Wells Co.; others on the run: http://t.co/NgerCdsQ
Karen Townsend | 4 years 2 months
Consistently impressed w/raullabrador when I listen to him in Congressional hearings. #Libya
Cory Crow | 4 years 2 months
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 2 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 | 4 years 2 months
Mining Houston Garbage for Recycling and Compost Gold http://t.co/HMMBArMX
swamplot | 4 years 2 months
Daily Demolition Report: Tulane Highway http://t.co/JXmkSx11
KFDA NewsChannel10 | 4 years 2 months
Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues http://t.co/y3VrPfkM
Williamson County | 4 years 2 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
© 2016 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement