Wishful Thinking, Or Great Case for State Voter ID?

Out here on the border, in Val Verde County, there will be what could be a major "vote harvesting" trial coming up. "Vote harvesting" is nothing new, but what gives this trial the potential to be large is that it has already led to the resignation of one of our county commissioners and could possibly be a political stain on the local Democratic Party, perhaps even our US Congressman, Ciro Rodriguez. Rumors abound that the Democrats are pulling out all the stops to push the pending trial past the November General Election.

In this area, and many other parts of the state, there is a group of women who gather illegal votes for candidates "professionally". Yes, these women are out during every election, often winning the race for the Democrat Party, or a particular candidate who pays the bill, in Early voting.

What makes this case unique as Del Rio's THIRD trial for vote Harvesting, is that while they were sternly warned in the past, this Court action appears to have the earmarks of serious repercussions with a long time harvester, Dora Gonzalez, rumored to be spilling the beans to curry favor with the Court. Long time Commissioners, Jesus "Cheo" Ortiz, retired shortly after his re-election for health reasons.

The trial stems from the March 2nd Democratic Primary in which the incumbent commissioner "won" by a mere 29 votes after a recount. His opponent, like everyone here, suspected that the commissioner had been involved in illegal electioneering at the courthouse and it was alleged that he sought the help of "vote harvesters". Strong rumors persist that a deal was struck, that if Commissioner Ortiz resigned and conceded the race due to fraudulent votes, his opponent would not seek legal action.

County Commissioner Ortiz decided to resign, but since he did not concede the race, or the appointment to Mr. Flores, he went forward with the suit. Oscar San Miguel, brother of the Del Rio News Herald Publisher, was appointed by Val Verde County Commissioners Court to serve as Commissioner pending further Court actions.

Now as I said before, one of the three women, Dora Gonzalez, has begun to crack and is rumored to be talking - talking a little too much for the local Democratic Party.

What's been most interesting though is that Mrs. Gonzalez appears to claims to have been paid by the Democratic Party in the 2006 congressional race for district 23. Following disputes over redistricting, incumbent Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla was facing seven paying Democratic opponents. According to Mrs. Gonzalez the seven Democrats pooled their money together to ensure a November victory for her Party. The winner was our current congressman, Ciro Rodriguez.

So the trial is set for June, and it will be interesting to see who else, besides Commissioner Ortiz, will be affected by this case. This could be our chance to ensure voter integrity here on the border, something that is long overdue. The most interesting thing is that even, after two rumored Court sessions in Hondo, there has been no big black headlines in the local paper with official news of the actual rulings of the Court, if any, and rumors abound as to the actual state, if any, or Mr. Flores suit. Del Rio has cried out for years for balanced coverage of local politics to no avail, and nothing seems to be changing. Where is Woodward and Bernstein when Del Rio only seeks the honest, and fair will of the people.

Unfortunately our local media is not talking about this case much, for obvious reasons, but I hope that if we can get some state-wide attention we can either get more evidence out of these women or we can finally convince our state legislature to pass a state Voter ID.

A state Voter ID will not be a panacea for "vote harvesting" or other fraudulent voter activity, but it will definitely make it harder for candidates to undermine the will of the people. Hopefully this big case in our small border town will receive more attention and lead to much needed election reforms in our state.

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I covered several of the many cases of voter fraud in Del Rio, Texas. The first was the 1996 case against the county by a Democratic Party intercessor Texas Rural Legal Aide and Ann Richard's husband against the county, attempting to throw out some 800 absentee military ballots. You see, the military ballots elected the first Republican party sheriff in 114 years in Val Verde County. It also elected a Republican County Commissioner (Pct 1, I believe), Murrey Kachel, who, it was dug up later, had participated in Klan rallies in the early 1980s. So the story was juicy! Kachel defended himself well, but stepped aside. Jernigan joined the suit voluntarily at a great personal cost, and finally won his seat, six months later. He was generally popular, and served as Val Verde County Sheriff until January 2009. He was defeated in November 2008, the same election under scrutiny here.

In a 2003 school board election. a liberal, Hispanic school board candidate won as a write-in candidate. The mail-in vote was huge. Of the ballots, nearly all were signed by three ladies (those that were signed, signifying assistance). I remember the names of the three: Alma Staples, Gonzalez and Escobedo. How someone wins a highly contested school board election as a write-in candidate can be explained by the article above.

In 2004, Republican Dora Alcala won a six-way race for mayor and the runner-up, Robert Garza, took it to court accusing Alcala of voter fraud by stuffing the ballot box with the Gonzalez-Escobedo tag team. The court room air conditioning wasn't working. Elderly, infirmed witnesses (those for whom the votes were allegedly cast) passed out in the heat awaiting time on the witness stand. Some, I recall, didn't speak English and had no idea they had even voted. "Why did you make me come here?" was a familiar refrain, spoken in Spanish. Alcala still won the court battle, but the scene at the courthouse was illuminating.

The 63rd District Court DA, the County Judge, the newspaper publisher (owned by Southern Newpapers of Galveston, a company that could give a flip about democracy as long as they sell ad space) and most of the leaders of Val Verde County are related to one another and in the know of the mail-in voter scheme. That's why nothing ever gets done about it.

Joe Hyde

Theres a limited handful of Elected officials who are not related to anyone in the county. In fact that write-in candidate just won a JP race through the same methods above. This vote harvesting case goes from the top to the very bottom.
 

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