Vote fraud in Texas

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When people think of vote fraud in Texas what usually comes to mind first is Magical Box 13. As recounted in Robert Caro's Means of Ascent, in 1948, future president Lyndon Johnson was trailing six days after the election, and seemed certain to lose, when a protégé of George Parr, the "Duke of Duval" and political boss of the heavily Hispanic counties in southern Texas, "discovered" 200 allegedly uncounted ballots in Box 13, in Alice, Texas. These 200 "voters" cast their ballots 198 to 2 for Johnson, putting him over the top. As Caro writes, "the election of course was stolen".[1]

South Texas continues to be a hotbed of voter fraud, most prevalent in absentee ballots mailed in prior to elections. The state attorney general, Greg Abbott, has focused investigators on cases statewide, an effort funded by a $1.5 million federal grant.[2] [3]

Some observers trace the roots of modern mail-in ballot malfeasance to a patronage system in which ranch bosses in Mexico would reward workers with promotions in exchange for votes.[4]

The issue of voter fraud was politicized during a 2009 debate over whether to require photo identification at the polls. [5] State House opponents of the measure filibustered the voter ID bill, and were called into special legislative session to deal with issues such as transportation funding that had been set aside during the voter ID debate. [6][7] The voter ID plan did not pass.


Dallas County Justice of the Peace

The Attorney General of Texas opened an investigation into allegations of mail-in ballot vote fraud said to have occurred in a Democratic primary in Dallas County in an election for justice of the peace between incumbent Luis Sepulveda and winner Carlos Medrano. Sepulveda said of the investigation, " needs to be done. It's a big step in the right direction."

County Judge Jim Foster, a Democrat, asked for the involvement of Greg Abbott because of concerns over whether Democrat District Attorney Craig Watkins would properly investigate. Foster said, ""This is absolutely necessary to bring an end to a longtime tradition of voter fraud in Dallas County."

Ann McGeehan, election director for the Texas Secretary of State's office, said in an April 20 letter that nine crimes might have been committed, including illegal voting, obstructing a poll watcher, unlawfully assisting a voter and providing false information on a ballot application.[8]

Starr County

A Starr County commissioner mishandled ballots in the Democratic primary. Commissioner Raul "Roy" Pena Jr. pleaded no contest to the charges. He was convicted on "one count of illegally returning a marked ballot and one count of improperly mailing another voter’s ballot, stemming from allegations he helped stuff ballot boxes with fraudulent mail-in votes," The (McAllen) Monitor reported.[9]

Cameron County

A judge upheld the results of a tainted primary election for a Cameron County commission post. The judge found that some of the ballots should not be counted because they were mishandled, but that the voter fraud was not widespread enough to change the outcome. Ernie L. Hernandez Jr. won the primary, despite opponent Ruben R. Peña's argument that Hernandez was aided by fraudulent votes. [10]

Absentee ballots, Dallas

See also: Absentee ballot vote fraud

A Dallas County election administrator said that his election office had received a voice message from a Lois Parrott asking for "two applications" for absentee ballots. Lois Parrott, however, did not request any such ballots, according to her husband, who is a candidate for the Dallas Independent School District.[11]


Illegal vote harvesting

Zaida Bueno was charged in February 2010 of illegal vote harvesting in a 2008 primary in Jim Wells County. The Attorney General of Texas is prosecuting the misdemeanour case, which involves allegations that Bueno improperly coached voters and collected mail-in ballots. Bueno said, "County, the whole county and the whole courthouse – city council, school board, any election you name, I’ve done."[12]

Felons voting

See also: Felon vote fraud

In September 2009, a Brooks County grand jury indicted three convicted felons on charges they illegally cast ballots in a 2008 school board election in Progreso, Texas. Illegal voting is a third-degree felony carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. The cases will be tried in Brooks County.[13]

The Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office has opened a separate investigation into similar alleged improprieties in the Hidalgo’s November 2008 municipal elections.[13]

Dead voting in Houston

Texas Watchdog video report
More than 4,000 people's names are listed both on Harris County’s voter rolls and also in a federal database of death records, a Texas Watchdog analysis has found. Dozens have apparently cast ballots from beyond the grave, records since 2004 show. One expert says the number of deceased names used to cast ballots may be higher than what Texas Watchdog’s analysis found. Instances of dead voters’ names being used to cast ballots were most frequent in three elections, the November 2004 general election, the November 2006 general election and the March 2008 Democratic primary, the analysis found.[14]

Undocumented immigrants

District Attorney Susan Reed has been investigating undocumented immigrant status fraud for over a year, which has been claimed by people both registering to vote and by people trying to get out of jury duty. Two of the jury cases are to be prosecuted as perjury. According to Reed, her office investigated records from the Bexar County election department, which began in late May 2007, when the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement requested a report prepared by Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen.[15] "I'm asking to move it up on the radar and let's keep what we need to be able to come in and effectively prosecute in those situations," Reed said.[16]

Magical Box 13

The statute of limitations has run out on some of the cases of voter fraud. The statute of limitations is two years on lying to get out of jury duty and three years on the undocumented voter registration. According to Reed, her office investigated records from the Baxer County election department at the department's request. "I'm asking to move it up on the radar and let's keep what we need to be able to come in and effectively prosecute in those situations," she said.[16]

300,000 registrations for non-citizens

David Simcox, former Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies released a study in early October 2008 that said an estimated 1.8 million to 2.7 million non-citizen immigrants in the United States may be illegally registered to vote and over 300,000 of them are from Texas, thereby potentially influencing the outcome of the upcoming presidential and congressional elections.[17]

The counties mentioned in the report were Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, Harris, Maverick, Presidio, Starr, Tarrant, Travis, Valverde, and Webb counties. The report found that, according to Mr. Simcox's calculations, Dallas, Harris, Presidio and Starr counties had a higher number of registered voters than legitimately eligible voters, a figure that excludes non-citizens and convicted felons.[17]

Kaufman County over-vote alleged

A candidate for Kaufman County constable who lost the Republican primary in April by five votes suspects foul play. Kenneth Garvin claims 66 more votes were cast than there were individuals who had signed up to cast ballots. Garvin has questioned the results even though the time to file formal complaints has passed. Election officials however, respond that Garvin has not accounted for mail-in ballots and people who were not told to sign in or lost sign-in sheets. [18]

Suppression alleged

According to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice', Texas is violating a law that prohibits states from "purging" voters 90 days before an election. The major concern is the report is that there are no national standards for purging and as a result, the cleaning up of voter rolls is not as precise as it should be and eligible voters are often wrongly removed. The Brennan report calls the nationwide process "chaotic," "shrouded in secrecy", "riddled with inaccuracies", "prone to error" and "vulnerable to manipulation."[19]


Refugio County

Raymond Villarreal, a Refugio County commissioner, pleaded guilty in 2007 to a felony count of tampering with a governmental document and a misdemeanor count of wrongful possession of a ballot. District Judge W.W. Kilgore sentenced Villarreal to 90 days in county jail, 300 hours of community service and $2,500 in fines. If he violates terms of a five-year probation, he could get sent to state prison for two years. Villarreal also agreed to pay back $2,090 to the county, in conjunction with his use of county equipment and county employees to do work on private property, but charges were never filed.[20]

Villarreal resigned and admitted his role in a voter fraud scheme involving mail-in ballots that helped him get elected in 2006, officials said. Villarreal got county residents to sign mail-in ballot applications, but had those applications sent to his supporters. After the ballots were filled out indicating a vote for Villarreal, he had the original applicants sign them. "It left a bad taste in my mouth that somebody would try to defraud the system — the same system that I worked to be elected," Refugio County Sheriff Earl Petropoulos said.[20]

Starr County

Four Starr and Hidalgo county political operatives were indicted for voter fraud in a large-scale effort to submit mail-in ballots for imaginary people in 2006’s March Democratic primary election. The people indicted were Jose Rene Gomez, 33, who is also charged with voting twice in the election, Oralia Frausto, 49, Oscar Rios, 37, Dolores Gutierrez, 58, and Maria Gonzalez. Investigators suspect that Gutierrez and Gonzalez are the same woman, but brought indictments against both names nonetheless.[21]

According to a press release from the Attorney General’s office, the four were indicted by a grand jury in Brooks County last week on charges related to the fraud scheme, which allegedly involved registering fake voters to vacant lots in Starr County and having mail-in ballots sent to several Hidalgo County addresses. At the time of the report, only Rios had been arrested.[21]

Hidalgo indictments dismissed

In 2008, a judge dismissed another case in the McAllen voter fraud indictments from 2006. Two years after the son of a former McAllen mayor and nine other individuals were indicted in Hidalgo County, the case fell apart. One indicted individual pled guilty, but these charges against the others were dropped. The nine were indicted with various levels of vote fraud after it was reported that they had helped elderly people with their ballots and possibly influenced their decisions. Others were accused of receiving money for votes. The cases have been delayed several times already and most have been dismissed. [18]

The district attorney who was prosecuting the case dropped the final case in April 2010. District Attorney René Guerra said that voter fraud cases were difficult to prosecute and that some activity, such as possessing two ballots, should not be illegal.[22]


During a 2004 Democratic congressional primary, U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez charged that during a recount, a previously missing ballot box re-appeared with just enough votes to give the election to his Democratic primary opponent by 58 votes. [23]


  1. Dallas Morning Views blog, "Where's Box 13?", March 2008
  2. "Texas Watchdog", "Voter fraud persists in South Texas as enforcement efforts fail", April 7, 2010
  3. "Voter Fraud In South Texas timeline", 2010
  4. "Texas Watchdog", "Politiquero tradition shapes elections in South Texas", April 7, 2010
  5. "Dallas Morning News", "Texas Senate committee approves voter ID bill, will face tougher test in House", March 12, 2009
  6. "Dallas Morning News", "Capitol Journal: Texas Democrats filibuster voter ID bill for fifth day", May 27, 2009
  7. "Dallas Morning News", "Governor: Special session of Texas Legislature to deal with agencies' future", June 10, 2009
  8. Dallas News, "Texas attorney general investigating fraud allegations in Dallas County race", April 27, 2010
  9. "The Monitor", "Starr county commissioner convicted on voter fraud charges", June 23, 2010
  10. "The Brownsville Herald", "Peña loses challenge", June 9, 2010
  11. Dallas ISD, "Voter fraud allegation alleged in District 3 race", September 14, 2009
  12. Texas Watchdog, "Charged with illegal vote harvesting, a political worker explains how voter fraud works", May 11, 2010
  13. 13.0 13.1 The Monitor, "Three indicted on charges of illegal voting in Progreso", September 22, 2009
  14. Texas Watchdog: "Thousands on the rolls after death, creating potential for fraud," Oct 9, 2008
  15. My SA News: "Vote fraud probed in Bexar," June 8, 2007
  16. 16.0 16.1 "DA Alleges Voter Fraud By Undocumented Immigrants," July 18, 2008
  17. 17.0 17.1 Dallas Morning News: "Study calls into question number of non-citizen voters," Oct 7, 2008
  18. 18.0 18.1 Dallas Morning News,Kaufman County constable who lost primary suspects foul play, April 25, 2008
  19. "Red Flag On Purging Voter Rolls," Sep 30, 2008
  20. 20.0 20.1 Dallas News: "Refugio County Commissioner resigns, admits to voter fraud," Oct 10, 2008
  21. 21.0 21.1 The Brownsville Herald: "Five indicted in Starr County election fraud scheme," June 1, 2007
  22. "Texas Watchdog", South Texas DA, AG’s office clash on approach to voter fraud cases, Aug. 15, 2010
  23. John Fund, Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, Encounter Books, 2008, p. 12

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