Don’t try telling residents of South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley that voter fraud is “non-existent” or doesn’t change election outcomes. They know better.
Despite members of the institutional Left like the Brennan Center denying voter fraud is a problem, dismissing it as “irrational” or justifying it as not “widespread” enough to change election results, it’s an all-too-regular feature of elections in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.
Illegal voting, ballot harvesting, voter assistance that crosses into coercion and intimidation, and outright vote buying are especially prevalent in small towns where small numbers of fraudulent votes can sway results and where local governments and school districts are some of the biggest employers.
Politics has long been a blood sport in the Valley, where political slates often split among prominent families whose animosity goes back generations, and among contractors, material suppliers and law firms who compete for area jobs.
South Texas officials like former Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra know better too. How often did his office receive complaints about voter fraud or coercion?
“Every election for 35 years,” Guerra said. “For the last 10 or 12 years, the one (complaint) we saw the most was the politiqueras that were voting for people taken to the polls. … People would pay $5 to $10 (for votes). Every election. But how do you prove it?”
Illegal voter assistance is common with mail ballots, and has also become more so at the polls, with elderly voters at adult day care centers as frequent targets. “’To me, 99 percent of (assisted votes) are being cast by the person who drove them,’ Guerra said. “
Prosecutions are becoming more common in the RGV too. At least a dozen people have been prosecuted in Hidalgo and neighboring Cameron County on federal and state voter fraud charges including illegal assistance and vote buying in the 2012 Democratic primary, “which, in such a strongly Democratic area, is the election that matters.” But as Guerra noted, these cases are difficult to make and often involve only misdemeanor charges.
Just last year, former Weslaco City Commissioner Lupe Rivera was charged with 16 misdemeanor counts of voter fraud in the November 2013 election after his opponent Letty Lopez successfully contested the race, which was decided by just 16 votes. Fraudulent votes, as the trial revealed – fraudulent votes that changed the outcome of the election, something voter fraud deniers claim never happens.
What truly doesn’t happen are the penalties that deniers claim deter voter fraud.
Nearly all of the charges against his son and a campaign worker were dismissed when Rivera pleaded to a single count in exchange for a year of probation… His son, Lupe Rivera Jr., is running to claim his father’s former seat in the November election.
A year of probation for stealing an election. Meanwhile, the problem isn’t confined to South Texas. Right now a massive voter fraud investigation of illegal ballot harvesting is underway in Tarrant County, Texas that’s said to involve as many as 20,000 ballots.