Judge Menton Murray, Jr. has set a hearing for June 12 at 10:00 am, at which he will announce his decision as to each challenged vote in the election contest between Leticia Lopez and Lupe Rivera for Weslaco City Commission District 5. The hearing will be at the 139th District Court in Edinburg.
The trial in this case was held March 24-27, and after briefing by both sides, closing argument was held April 25.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram here. The election contest was filed March 24, centered on this allegation:
“I have received reports from voters in the district who say they were approached at their door by campaign workers of unclear affiliation who asked them to fill out a vote-by-mail application on an electronic tablet device such as an iPad,” Burnam said in his statement.
“Texas law clearly does not allow the practice of filling out vote-by-mail ballot applications electronically, which the Texas Secretary of State’s has confirmed. Other questionable practices about this operation aside, this renders the entire operation illegal.”
The latest from The Monitor and
KGBT Channel 4
One would think there would be much more statewide coverage of the very intersting, and troubling, political corruption and voter fraud issues so prevalent in South Texas elections. Some previous coverage of the role of “politiqueras” and voter assistance fraud was pointed out to me today:
“Politiqueras a fixture in Rio Grande Valley elections,” San Antonio Express-News (5/25/12)
“Voter turnout efforts clash with history in South Texas,” Texas Tribune (10/10/12)
HT to Rep. Aaron Pena for pointing these out. He’s quoted in the Express-News piece as saying that “voter assistance abuse is the voter fraud of choice.”
The latest update from The Monitor on Lopez v. Rivera, including statements from myself and opposing counsel.
Story here, including this:
Lopez amended her original lawsuit Wednesday as well, adding claims that many voters were influenced improperly by Hidalgo County Precinct 1 and Weslaco city employees.
It alleges the precinct placed a sign saying who to vote for near a work time clock, a police officer drove voters to the polls and city employees were involved in creating a tabloid — the controversial and mysterious “truth” publication — to promote Rivera’s slate.
It also listed the names of 43 people who cast mail-in ballots that it says should not have been counted for various reasons.
“These pervasive illegalities in ballots voted by mail are the result of a concerted effort by Contestee Rivera’s campaign to encourage voters to seek ballot by mail applications, some of which were fraudulently submitted on behalf of voters not eligible … or even completing ballots without direction from the voters,” the suit says.
“The ballot by mail scheme allowed the Rivera campaign to exercise undue influence on such voters in a manner that would not be possible, or at least would be harder to achieve, if the voter were to vote in person.”
Status hearing set for 1:30 today before Judge Menton Murray, Jr. Judge Murray was appointed as the special judge to hear the case by the 5th Administrative Judicial Region, as required by the Election Code (since the case arises in Hidalgo County, an out-of-county judge is required to sit). While a visiting judge presides, the case remains in the 370th Dist Ct in Hidalgo County.
Here are news stories by The Monitor and KGBT (VIDEO) reporting on the filing of the lawsuit last month.
Elizabeth Findell of The Monitor covers the new lawsuit here, in which Letty Lopez, represented by Najvar Law Firm, challenges the election based on at least 24 apparent illegal votes by non-residents and at least 16 improperly rejected mail-in ballots. (Preliminary evidence thus shows at least 41 illegal ballots or ballots improperly rejected; this is more than double the current 16-vote margin of victory for incumbent Commissioner Lupe Rivera). The article includes this excerpt:
“Notably, of the 55 mail-in ballots rejected for all of Hidalgo County, 53 of these rejected ballots were from Weslaco,” the lawsuit says. “This improbable number, combined with the obvious illegal registration and voting by non-residents of the district, raise the specter of outright election fraud in this contest.”
Rivera could not be reached for comment immediately Tuesday afternoon, but was scheduled to be sworn in at the City Commission meeting Tuesday evening.
“Contesting an election is not a step to be taken lightly, but when I saw the evidence the decision was easy,” Lopez said in a news release sent out by her attorney, Jarad Najvar. “We have to stand up against any political machine that would try to perpetrate this fraud.”