For a candidate or campaign worker looking to steal votes by illegally harvesting mail ballots, it pays to have someone on the inside – say, in the elections office or the post office. It also pays to be that someone on the inside.
In the south Texas county of Hidalgo, that someone was U.S. Postal Service employee Noe Abdon Olvera. He was paid well for selling mail ballot information to campaign workers – until he got caught.
Olvera and another postal worker were charged with selling lists of voters who received mail-in ballots to candidates running in the November 2014 election.
Olvera, who was arrested at the Postal Service facility in McAllen where he worked in October 2014, was subsequently charged with four counts of bribery of public officials in connection with an investigation into allegations that the mailman took $1,200 in bribes from campaign workers on two separate occasions in exchange for lists of postal customer names and addresses.
In March, Olvera pleaded guilty to one count of bribery of public officials. In exchange, the government dismissed the remaining three counts he was facing, court records show.
Olvera was busted with help from Yolanda Hidrogo, a politiquera who secretly recorded conversations with the postal worker and recounted in an affidavit her activities as a paid vote harvester.
The ballot harvesting schemes Hidrogo describes in the affidavit are common throughout Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and elsewhere in the state.
Olvera was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
“Somebody has got to draw the line.”
Voter fraud is far from “nonexistent” in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, but local accountability advocates would like it to be.
Some Hidalgo County voters say they want to end the use of “politiqueras” in political campaigning following the “coke for votes” scandal. “Isn’t it time once and for all we put the politiquera system to death?” Virginia Townsend asked at the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court Tuesday morning. Townsend had a clear message for commissioners. “Never, never let your helpers pay for votes.”
Last week, two more politiqueras pleaded guilty to buying votes in two 2012 Hidalgo County elections.
More South Texas politiqueras charged with vote buying. The price of a vote in Hidalgo County? Ten dollars or a dime bag.
Court records obtained by Breitbart Texas from the arrest of two women accused of buying votes show that during the democratic primaries in 2012, a campaign manager for a Hidalgo County Commissioner who said that during the campaign, he bought $50 worth of cocaine, commonly known as an 8-ball and split it up in order to give it to the two women so they could use it to entice voters.
Earlier this week Belinda Solis and Veronica Salazar went before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby who formally charged them with vote buying and set their bond at $10,000. The two women were part of a large year and a half long FBI investigation into election corruption in Hidalgo County.
All the unsavory details are in the criminal complaints at the link.
KVEO has mug shots of the six Cameron County politiqueras charged Wednesday with multiple counts of voter fraud, and reports that “more arrests are possible.”
Local election integrity activist Mary Helen Flores, President of Citizens Against Voter Abuse (CAVA), says, “These arrests are having a huge impact towards cleaning up elections in Cameron County.”
How do politiqueras operating as harvesters-for-hire for local candidates go about stealing votes? Flores explains, “We found that what they did, when we interviewed the voters, was they requested applications on behalf of the voter without the voter’s request. They came and took the ballots and carried envelopes from the voter many times before the voter filled out the ballot, they took the ballot and mailed it themselves and that’s against the law.”
An investigation of voter fraud in South Texas has netted six politiqueras, including a repeat offender:
Half a dozen women charged with various voter fraud crimes were processed into the Cameron County jail Wednesday.
Their arrests were the culmination of a multi-agency investigation into illicit voting activity surrounding the Democratic primary runoff held in July 2012.
Cameron County Elections Administrator Chris Davis said his office provided information to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies requested as part of the investigation.
Tomasa Ramirez Chavez, 84; Bernice Garcia, 29; Margarita Rangel Ozuna, 63; Sara Virginia Perales, 51; and Vicenta Guajardo Verino, 53, were all accused of multiple charges, while Facunda Banda Garcia, 54, was charged only with the unlawful assisting of a voter… This is Ozuna’s second arrest on charges related to voter fraud.
The six are just the most recent vote harvesters busted in the Rio Grande Valley. Three politiqueras were arrested last December and pleaded guilty to vote buying in the 2012 Donna ISD school board election, and another pleaded guilty in November to forging five mail ballots in a 2012 Cameron County Democratic primary.