In Edinburg, Texas, nine people have been arrested under the suspicion that they had participated in illegal voting. The suburb of McAllen, which lies next to the U.S. border with Mexico, saw the arrests come after an investigation revealed that the accused had agreed to fraudulently claim residential addresses that enabled them to vote in municipal races in Edinburg. The defendants are: Guadalupe Sanchez Garza, Araceli Gutierrez, Brenda Rodriguez, Rosendo Rodriguez, Cynthia Tamez, Ruby Tamez, Belinda Rodriguez, Felisha Yolanda Rodriguez and Jerry Gonzalez, Jr. They will be prosecuted by the district attorney of Hidalgo County.
Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement, “Illegal voting, particularly an organized illegal voting scheme orchestrated by political operatives, is an affront to democracy and results in corruption at the highest level.” Paxton added, “Each illegal vote silences the voice of a law-abiding registered voter. My office will continue to do everything in its power to uncover illegal voting schemes and bring to justice those who try to manipulate the outcome of elections in Texas.”
For Felisha Yolanda Rodriguez, a $1,000 bond has been set. Araceli Gutierrez, Brenda Rodriguez, Rosendo Rodriguez, Belinda Rodriguez and Jerry Gonzalez, Jr. are each facing a $10,000 bond, while the remaining defendants have not had their bonds set as of Thursday afternoon. Further arrests are expected. The Texas Rangers assisted the district attorney’s office in making the arrests.
The investigation is linked to the hotly contested November 2017 race, which ushered in Richard Molina to the mayor’s office after defeating veteran incumbent Mayor Richard Garcia. Moline won by more than 1,200 votes.
Besides Mayor Molina, city council member Jorge Salinas and City Secretary Ludivina Leal have also been tied to what the Attorney General called an “organized scheme” on the basis of criminal complaints. Both Molina and Salinas have called the accusations false and partisan. This was despite a broad collection of public records to bolster evidence against the accused, including driver’s license applications, school forms, utility bills, Texas Workforce Commission paperwork, and property records.
It was former Hidalgo County Justice of the Peace Mary Alice Palacios who filed a complaint with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office that alleged that eight of the 11 people registered to vote on the basis of residence in Edinburg did not actually live there. Prosecutors believe that Araceli Gutierrez, 51, who according to her criminal complaint worked for an unnamed political campaign, allowed four family members to use her 409 E. Fay St. address in Edinburg so they could vote. Those family members are: Brenda Rodriguez, 32; Felisha Yolanda Rodriguez, 23; Belinda Rodriguez, 41; and Rosendo Rodriguez, 72. Also, investigators believe Brenda Rodriguez, Felisha Yolanda Rodriguez and Belinda Rodriguez live together in Alamo. Rosendo Rodriguez lives in Edinburg, but outside city limits. Also arrested were Cynthia Tamez, 32, and Ruby Tamez, 31, who are accused of changing information on their voter registration cards. Earlier, their siblings, Maria San Juanita Aleman and Francisco Tamez Jr., were arrested for the same charge in connection with the same apartment.
Jerry Gonzalez Jr., 33, and Guadalupe Sanchez Garza, 46, were both arrested on illegal voting charges. They are accused of using a false address to vote in Edinburg. Gonzalez is believed to live in Pharr and Garza in Edinburg, but outside the municipal voting jurisdiction.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.