Category Archives: election fraud

San Antonio Appellate Court to Decide Important Case Documenting Systematic Manipulation of Assisted Voters and Indications of Ballot Box Stuffing

From a Najvar Law Firm press release, August 23, 2018:

Case Pending Before San Antonio Court of Appeals Presents Opportunity to Restore Election Integrity in South Texas

Everyone who lives in the Rio Grande Valley knows that the systematic manipulation and exploitation of vulnerable voters, through both mail-ballot schemes and assisted voting at the polls, is a fact of life in local elections.  The trouble is proving it and finding someone to enforce the law, even-handedly.  Najvar Law Firm is representing Leticia Galvan and Martie Garcia Vela, two Democratic candidates contesting the results of the March 2018 primaries in Starr County, a border county west of McAllen, Texas.  Galvan ran for County Judge against long-time incumbent Eloy Vera; Garcia Vela ran for an open seat on the 229th District Court.  After five days of sworn testimony in open court, the trial record documents the manipulation of elderly and other vulnerable voters voting early in person in perhaps more detail than has been available ever before. The San Antonio Court of Appeals is expected to decide by August 29 whether new elections will be ordered.

A five-day trial was held in April 2018, featuring testimony from poll workers, the Starr County elections administrator and several of his staff, candidates, voters, and two poll watchers who spent a combined minimum of 70-80 hours observing the conduct of assisted voting at the Rio Grande City Courthouse polling site.  The evidence and arguments are all summarized in detail in Contestants’ brief to the Fourth Court of Appeals, unsealed just this week by the Court of Appeals.  Some of the highlights from trial include the following, all established through clear testimony that went uncontradicted:

Abuses of “assisted” voting

  • Poll watcher Monica Pena, who observed 7-8 full days of early voting (from the time the polls opened to the time they closed) testified that she saw between 40 and 70 (and sometimes up to 100) voters voting curbside with assistance each day. These voters would typically arrive in the same vehicle with the assistant.  About half the time a voter received assistance voting from a vehicle, the process began with the assistant telling the voter—sometimes with a “nudge”—to “remind” the clerk that the assistant would help.  Pena testified that “in some occasions they almost seemed coached by whoever…brought them in.  Uh, and they would nudge them…to remind them, ‘ask for me, ask for me.’”
  • Pena testified that “for the most part,” the assistant, not the voter, would receive and complete the ballot. (“They would just swear in the assistant, they would provide the assistant with the ballot. Observing them they would close the doors to the vehicle, and on many if not all occasions they would be filling out the ballots.”).
  • Pena observed that sometimes it appeared to be “just a pattern of filling out….whatever party they were with,” even voting based off of a sample ballot in the vehicle, without any observable conversation between the assistant and the voter (which would be required if the assistant were actually asking the voter whom the voter wished to vote for).
  • On many occasions, the assistants would “tote” numerous voters to the polling place at once in the same vehicle, and on such occasions Pena said that the assistants would not read the ballots, and she overheard them telling voters, “No, no, no…No, not that one,” or “ ‘Con ese candidato no,’ which means not with that candidate, he’s not with us or they are not with us.”
  • Norma Lopez, a military veteran who served tours of duty overseas, filled in as a watcher one day for Monica Pena, and observed the same things. She testified that she was troubled by the exploitation of elderly voters that she witnessed.  Lopez is not typically active politically, but when she heard that this case was filed, she contacted Leticia Galvan via Facebook and reported her experience.
  • Lopez happened to be inside the polling place at one point when one of the women who had been observed assisting repeated voters outside in the manner described above came inside with a voter she referred to as “Panchito.” Panchito asked the election clerk for a Republican ballot, but the “assistant,” Ester Ayala (a Starr County employee who testified she was volunteering to help County Judge Eloy Vera in the campaign) immediately said, “No Panchito, you are not voting Republican, you are voting Democrat.”  Lopez was standing right there, as was the presiding judge, and Lopez told the judge, “She can’t do that!”  But instead of ensuring Panchito had the ability to vote the ballot of his choice, the judge told poll watcher Lopez to “back off,” and gave Panchito the Democratic ballot.  Lopez then remained watching as Panchito told Ester, “well you fill it out because I don’t know who you want me to vote for.”
  • Both poll watchers complained repeatedly to the election judge and clerks, to no avail. They became so frustrated by the lack of action that they stopped complaining.
  • It is now impossible to identify which voters were assisted, and by whom. While Election Code 64.032(d) requires that poll workers record the assistant’s “name and address on the poll list beside the voter’s name,” the poll workers refused to do so, at the direction of Elections Administrator John Rodriguez.

“In normal circumstances absent fraud, the failure to properly record the assistant’s information would not invalidate the votes,” said attorney Jerad Najvar, representing Contestants.  “But where there is fraud in the election—and here there was fraud by the assistants who unlawfully assisted and the poll workers who failed to prevent violations of the code—the failure to record this information should invalidate the affected votes, because it prevents an audit of the election.”

Ballot Box Security Failures and Indications of Stuffed Ballots

  • Boxes of ballots from multiple election sites contained stacks of sequentially-numbered ballots, “stuck together” as if pulled from a paper stack, unsigned by the presiding judge (who is required to randomize and then sign each ballot before offering them to voters).
  • To understand the implications of finding ballots in such a manner, one must understand the way the Starr County voting machines work. Starr County utilizes paper ballots, and after the voter fills in the ballot, he or she feeds it into an M-100 precinct ballot scanner, which tabulates the votes at the polling site as the ballot then falls into an attached ballot box.
  • An election judge testified that she knows from ten years of election experience that the M-100 will alternate flipping ballots to the right and left side of the ballot box as they are scanned in.
  • Thus, if a ballot box contains stacks of ballots, sequentially numbered, “stuck together,” and unsigned by the presiding judge, it is clear that those ballots were not scanned through the machine by successive voters. There can be no explanation other than as someone’s attempt to cover up a fraud, as if they had manipulated the electronic results on the machines during the election and then, when they realized a recount was requested (requiring the ballot boxes to be opened), they placed the ballots in the box to cover up the fraud.
  • Yet, as with the failure to record the assistant’s information next to the voters, election officials did not keep required records of the numbers to the seals on the M-100s and ballot boxes, preventing any audit of manipulation of the equipment.
  • Further, when a box that was not properly sealed was discovered during the recount, a sheriffs’ deputy made an official report, and testified that an elections official was trying to “act like” the seal was not open when it was obvious to the deputy and others that it was open. Elections Administrator John Rodriguez walked away from the area and did not return to the recount that day, and never followed up with the sheriff’s department to investigate.

Early Voting Ballot Board

  • The Early Voting Ballot Board, responsible for processing all mail-in ballots to determine whether each ballot will be accepted or rejected, had five members, and three of them were statutorily disqualified from serving on the Board because they are Starr County employees and County Judge Eloy Vera was an opposed candidate on the ballot.
  • Additionally, each member of the Board was reviewing her own stack of ballots and deciding unilaterally whether each ballot would be accepted or rejected, as opposed to reviewing them as a board.

After a five-day trial in April, a vising district judge held that Contestants had failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the election was invalid.  (The trial court’s judgment and findings are found in the appendix to Appellants’ brief as Tabs A and B.)

“The trial court erred in failing to recognize that the undisputed facts in this case established fraud as a matter of law in various phases of the election,” said Najvar, “which means that the statutory violations by election officials, including failure to record the assistants’ information and failure to record ballot box seal numbers, require a new election.  If the Court of Appeals orders new elections based on these violations, it will go a long way to restoring election integrity in South Texas, and will send a message that the laws that are meant to protect vulnerable voters—our elderly and infirm family members—cannot be ignored and abused.”

The Fourth Court of Appeals has indicated that it will decide the case by August 29.  It initially set the case for oral argument, indicating that the Court is interested in one or more issues in the case.  However, Galvan and Garcia Vela asked the Court to expedite its decision, including by foregoing oral argument if necessary, so that time remains to conduct new primary elections (before the General Election in November) in the event the Court rules in their favor.

The case is Leticia Garza Galvan and Martie Garcia Vela v. Eloy Vera and Baldemar Garza, No. 04-18-00309-CV, pending in the Fourth Court of Appeals.  The court’s case page is here, reflecting the status of the case and links to the documents.

Jerad Najvar specializes in litigation and appeals in election and constitutional matters, and is founder of the Najvar Law Firm, PLLC in Houston. He successfully litigated an election contest in Hidalgo County in 2014, Letty Lopez v. Guadalupe Rivera, proving 30 votes were illegally cast in a Weslaco race, including instances of ballot by mail fraud.

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NLF moves Corpus Christi Court of Appeals to publish important 2015 illegal-voting decision

In May 2015, the Thirteenth Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi, TX affirmed a judgment in a Hidalgo County election contest which found by “clear and convincing evidence” that thirty illegal votes had been cast in a race with a 16-vote margin of victory, and ordering a new election.  In full disclosure, NLF represented the prevailing party, Letty Lopez, and Lopez won the ensuring court-ordered election in November 2015.  This week, NLF filed a motion with the court of appeals requesting that the opinion be officially published.  This is somewhat inside baseball, but the opinion was designated a “memorandum opinion” upon release, meaning that, while it is still binding precedent and available in online legal databases, it would not appear in the Southwestern Reporter volumes.  We believe it is important that this opinion is accorded the weight it deserves, as it was the first time the Thirteenth Court of Appeals has addressed several critical issues regarding residency and mail-in ballot fraud and illegal voting.  The opinion shows that the voter residency requirement does have teeth and can be enforced.  Also, critically, it affirms that failure to disclose required information on a carrier envelope where someone takes the envelope from the voter to mail will render the ballot uncountable.

Reported #voterfraud investigation in Nueces County, Texas

I just noticed this story from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, reporting on an apparent investigation by state authorities into allegations that campaign workers filled out a voter’s mail-in ballot without his direction:

“He said he had a mail in ballot, but it had already been filled out,” Franklin said. “I asked if (Gonzalez) had helped him, and he said, ‘No, she took it from me and she filled it out the way she wanted to.’

“There’s so much fraud there it’s unbelievable,” she added.

Franklin, who has been working Nueces County elections for about 15 years, said a relative of Flores “brought in people every day that she didn’t seem to know.”

This type of fraud is commonplace in the Rio Grande Valley, and was part of the reason Letty Lopez prevailed in her election contest and the court ordered a new election.

Opening briefs filed in Corpus Christi Court of Appeals in case raising important voter residency and ballot by mail fraud issues

After a four-day trial in March 2014 (see case timeline at bottom of story), a Hidalgo County district court found by clear and convincing evidence that 30 votes had been illegally cast in a race for Weslaco City Commission, wiping out incumbent Lupe Rivera’s 16-vote victory and requiring a new election.  Central to the case are two issues common across the Rio Grande Valley: residency requirements (voting by persons who do not reside in the electoral district) and failure to follow the strict disclosure requirements enacted to prevent ballot by mail fraud.  Once Rivera appealed the decision, Lopez filed a cross-appeal, arguing that the court should have thrown out eleven more illegal votes.

Both sides filed their opening briefs December 29.  Responses are due January 5.  Lopez’s opening brief is below.  Disclosure: NLF represents Lopez at trial and on appeal.

Letty Lopez files request to expedite any appeal of her election contest victory in Weslaco

Letty Lopez filed the below motion today requesting an expedited schedule if Lupe Rivera files an appeal.  Yesterday, Lopez filed a proposed judgment which included a proposal for an expedited appeal, should any appeal be filed, as permitted by the election code.  Rivera’s attorney immediately emailed Lopez’s attorney indicating that Rivera would object to any expedited appellate schedule.  In light of this objection, Lopez filed the motion below, providing an explanation as to why the court has the authority to expedite the appeal and why it should do so in this case, rather than permitting Rivera to delay resolution of this case.

20140619 motion for expedited briefing on appeal Lopez

#LopezvRivera update: Imporant victory against illegal voting in Weslaco election contest

Last Thursday, June 12, the district court announced in open court that Letty Lopez had met her burden and proved by clear and convincing evidence that there were more illegal votes cast in last November’s Weslaco Commission District 5 race than the margin of victory. The judge announced that a new election must be held “as soon as possible,” although no date has been set yet.  Below are two news stories covering the ruling.  Stay tuned for details, as the judgment should be signed soon and we will find out what happens next.  I will also lay out the basis for the court’s ruling in more detail after the judgment is signed.  This is an important victory against illegal campaign tactics commonly used by some candidates in the Valley.  (Disclosure: Najvar Law Firm, the sponsor of this blog, represents the successful contestant, Letty Lopez.)

Judge orders new election in Weslaco District 5” (The Monitor)

KRGV video report

Open letter to Valley View ISD employees: fight back against voter intimidation

Najvar Law Firm sent this open letter to the Valley View ISD Board of Trustees (Pharr, TX) Friday.  With municipal elections for the City of Hidalgo approaching May 10, the letter points out the criminal and civil provisions protecting public employees from attempts by their employers to coerce votes, and requests that the school distribute the letter to all its employees.

See this recent video report by KRGV discussing the type of voter intimidation that occurs in parts of the Rio Grande Valley.