UPDATED October 9 at 5:00 p.m.
Nine Hidalgo County residents were arrested Thursday and accused of participating in an organized illegal voting scheme in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. A tenth suspect was arrested Friday.
A total of 15 people have now been charged in the ongoing investigation of voter fraud in the City of Edinburg’s November 2017 municipal election, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says more arrests are expected.
The alleged voter fraud scheme involved a coordinated effort by political workers to recruit people residing outside the city limits to fraudulently register at Edinburg addresses so they could illegally vote in specific city races.
State law requires voters to register and vote where they actually reside.
“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 said in a statement announcing the latest arrests. “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.”
On Thursday, Paxton’s Election Fraud Unit arrested Araceli Gutierrez, Brenda Rodriguez, Belinda Rodriguez, Rosendo Rodriguez, Felisha Rodriguez, Cynthia Tamez, Ruby Tamez, Guadalupe Sanchez Garza, and Jerry Gonzalez Jr. Gutierrez’ boyfriend Jose Ignacio Martinez was arrested Friday.
Campaign worker Gutierrez is accused of allowing the four Rodriguez family members and Martinez, who live outside the city, to change their voter registrations to her Edinburg address at 409 E. Fay St. The Tamez sisters are charged with fraudulently changing their voter registrations to the address of an apartment complex owned by Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina, who was elected in the November 2017 election. Molina, acting a a deputy voter registrar, changed the registration addresses of the Tamezes on October 4.
Garza, Gonzalez, and Martinez are accused of illegally voting in Edinburg after fraudulently changing their registration addresses.
It’s a Class B misdemeanor to make a false statement on a voter registration application or induce another person to do so. Illegally voting where you don’t reside is a second-degree felony; engaging in organized election fraud activity to commit illegal voting upgrades the offense to a first-degree felony, under a new law enacted last year.
Five other suspects were arrested earlier this year by the Texas Rangers, who are working with Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez and the AG’s Election Fraud Unit to investigate the voter fraud allegations.
Crystal Lee Ponce, Veronica Vela Saenz, Maria Aleman, and Jose Francisco Tamez Jr. were charged with illegal voting. Antonio Vela was accused of falsely claiming an Edinburg address on a voter registration application. Aleman and Tamez are siblings of the Tamez sisters arrested Thursday.
Texas Scorecard has been covering the investigation since complaints of suspected illegal voting became public in April.
The investigation is ongoing, and the AG’s office says more arrests are expected in connection with the organized illegal voting scheme in Edinburg. Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to come forward and cooperate with the Election Fraud Unit and Texas Rangers.