With early voting beginning on Monday, citizen activists have filed a lawsuit to stop their county government from manipulating the election.
At issue is Hidalgo County Proposition 1, a measure that would create a hospital district in Hidalgo County at a cost of 8 cents per $100 of valuation from every homeowner. But local conservatives argue that figure is a smokescreen.
Indeed, Proposition 1 is merely a second attempt to institute the 75 cent tax that was proposed in 2014—and defeated by voters.
Hidalgo County residents already pay some of the highest property taxes in the state, a burden that is particularly heavy for many families already struggling. According to Beto Salinas, the Mayor of Mission and an opponent of Proposition 1, 35 percent of the county’s residents struggle to pay their property tax bills as it is.
While the bond proposal itself is offensive, it’s the election process that’s coming under scrutiny after the county announced that it would utilize mobile polling places – at hospitals.
The new list of early voting locations published by the Hidalgo County Elections department includes over a dozen hospitals – all of which would benefit from Proposition 1’s passage. In fact, many of them were major donors to the Border Health PAC which supports the measure.
George Rice of McAllen and Cruz Quintana Jr. of San Juan filed the lawsuit against the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court over the selection of the places.
“There is no rational reason that, if the County is to have mobile units, they should travel to hospitals and other Border Health PAC-related institutions rather than standard public buildings that abound in Hidalgo County. The Mobile List is not even geographically dispersed. The Mobile List, therefore, does not serve any legitimate governmental interest in providing access to the ballot box,” they say in their suit. “It is an obvious attempt to manipulate the election results by taking the ballot boxes right to the institutions where Border Health PAC sponsors have influence over their employees.”
Rice and Quintana are requesting an injunction to be filed to prevent the process and for the District Judge hearing the case to recuse himself given his ties to State Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen), a major advocate for the hospital district.
While the story in Hidalgo County is shocking, rolling polling is a common tactic for bureaucrats and establishment politicians attempting to tilt elections in their favor across the state. The elimination of the practice would go a long way towards restoring integrity to Texas elections.