‘Politiqueras’ and Vote Fraud in the Rio Grande Valley

This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published July 9, 2015 by American Thinker.

In the vote-rich Rio Grande Valley of Texas, home to hundreds of thousands of legal and illegal immigrants, the American Civil Rights Union is fighting a legal battle to clean up dirty voter rolls.

At the same time, a left-wing campaign called Battleground Texas, funded partially by billionaire George Soros, is attempting to “turn Texas blue” by inflating voter rolls before the 2016 election.

The ACRU recently won a consent order in federal court to clean up voter rolls in one border county (Terrell) and is pursuing the same in another (Zavala). In both counties, the number of registered voters exceeds the number of legal, age-eligible residents.

This week, a National Public Radio report showed why the ACRU has put so much time, money, and effort into ensuring ballot integrity in South Texas.

NPR shined a light on an FBI investigation into vote fraud in the region, including the widespread use of “politiqueras,” who gather mail-in ballots and pay people to vote.

Here’s an excerpt:

According to the Justice Department, in 2013, more public officials were convicted for corruption in South Texas than in any other region of the country. One of the practices the task force is looking at is vote-stealing.

They’re called politiqueras — a word unique to the border that means campaign worker. It’s a time-honored tradition down in the land of grapefruit orchards and Border Patrol checkpoints. If a local candidate needs dependable votes, he or she goes to a politiquera.

In recent years, losing candidates in local elections began to challenge vote harvesting by politiqueras in the Rio Grande Valley, and they shared their investigations with authorities. After the 2012 election cycle, the Justice Department and the Texas attorney general’s office filed charges.

The NPR report prompted Republican Party of Texas chairman Tom Mechler to state that Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa “needs to come clean with the people of Texas” about whether he “personally participated in the corrupt practice of using politiqueras to commit voter fraud,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

Mechler asked whether Mr. Hinojosa “knowingly oversaw institutional voter fraud or if he simply turned a blind eye to fraudulent practices that were routinely committed by Democrat candidates in South Texas.”

Mr. Mechler “also slammed Hinojosa for his party’s focus on repealing the state’s stringent Voter ID law, calling it ‘comical that Chairman Hinojosa runs all over the state denouncing Voter ID, when the FBI is investigating voter fraud in his backyard,’” the Chronicle reported.

In the NPR segment, James Sturgis, assistant U.S. attorney in McAllen, said, “There is a concern in which the politiqueras are being paid to… essentially round up voters and have them vote a certain way.”

In the town of Donna, NPR reported, “five politiqueras pleaded guilty to election fraud. Voters were bribed with cigarettes, beer or dime bags of cocaine. In neighboring Cameron County, nine politiqueras were charged with manipulating mail-in ballots.”

NPR concluded its report by noting, “The indictments of politiqueras in the Rio Grande Valley may be having an effect. In the Democratic primaries in Cameron County for three justice of the peace offices, between elections in 2012 and 2014, the number of mail-in ballots dropped 97 percent.”