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‘Doping the vote’ in South Texas triggers federal indictments

By   /   July 17, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

Associated Press file photo

WHAT DO YOU KNOW? Texas Republicans say state Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa needs to “come clean” about voting irregularities in the Rio Grande Valley.

By Kenric Ward | Texas Watchdog.org

Shady ballot brokers are “doping the vote” in the Rio Grande Valley, an election-watch group says. Now the FBI is on the case.

“(The politiqueras) took voters to their weed man after voting,” Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for True the Vote, told Watchdog.org.

Trafficking in petty cash and dime bags, politiqueras round up voters for South Texas candidates, nearly all Democrats. The pay-for-ballot activity has resulted in 11 federal indictments so far.

Republicans are turning up the heat on state Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, a Brownsville resident and longtime political kingmaker in the Rio Grande Valley.

“He needs to come clean with the people of Texas (about whether he) personally participated in the corrupt practice of using politiqueras to commit voter fraud,” said state GOP Chairman Tom Mechler.

Hinojosa’s office did not respond to Watchdog’s request for comment, but the political boss has been outspoken in blasting Texas’ voter ID law.

“It’s comical that Chairman Hinojosa runs all over the state denouncing voter ID when the FBI is investigating voter fraud in his backyard,” Mechler said.

Citizens Against Voter Abuse, a local election-watch group, turned over evidence that mail-in ballots were manipulated by politiqueras during recent local elections.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said his office will prosecute Brownsville residents Jose A. Garza and Rafael Elizondo on multiple counts of possessing marked ballots without the consent of the voter. Each count is a felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and fines up to $10,000.

The alleged voter fraud was committed during a Democratic Party primary runoff election in 2012. In 2014, six women were arrested in connection to voting irregularities during another party primary. All of the indicted politiqueras have a Democratic Party vote history.

CAVA president Mary Helen Flores says her group is preparing to deliver more names to authorities.

“Corruption starts by stealing elections,” said Flores, who asserts that mail-in ballots are especially vulnerable to vote rigging. “We’ve seen the exact same handwriting on 50 or 60 (mail-in) ballot requests. It’s a huge red flag.”

Though the Obama administration has downplayed vote-fraud allegations, the FBI’s San Antonio office is taking those charges seriously in South Texas.

“We need the FBI more than the Border Patrol here. We need to put the real crooks in jail,” Flores said.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that more public officials were convicted for corruption in South Texas than in any other region in the country.

Kenric Ward writes for Texas Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]

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Kenric Ward is the San Antonio-based reporter for Watchdog.org. A California native and veteran journalist who has worked on three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, he received a BA from UCLA (Political Science/Phi Beta Kappa) and holds an MBA. He reported and edited at the San Jose Mercury News and the Las Vegas Sun before joining Watchdog.org in 2012 and previously reported from Virginia. Kenric can be reached at [email protected]