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.
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.
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.
See this post on the blog of The Republican National Lawyers’ Association about our victory in Lopez v. Rivera.
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.
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)
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.
The latest from The Monitor and
KGBT Channel 4