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A city official allegedly implicated in a Tarrant County voter-fraud scandal announced he would not be seeking reelection next year.

The mayor pro tem of Fort Worth, Sal Espino, announced he would not seek a seventh term in May 2017. Critics claim his retirement is due to the fact he’s been implicated in an alleged voter-fraud scheme, a matter currently under criminal investigation by the Attorney General’s Office.

Espino’s retirement follows the resignation of Tarrant County’s Election Administrator, Frank Phillips, the day before Thanksgiving. Phillips was abruptly hired last week by Denton County’s Election Committee.

The OAG’s ongoing investigation in Tarrant County is believed to be the largest voter-fraud investigation in Texas state history. The Texas Scorecard first reported on the investigation in August after Phillips publicly acknowledged its existence.

The investigation was the result of a 2015 complaint filed by Aaron Harris of Direct Action Texas. In October of 2016, Harris released evidence submitted with his formal complaint.

During a presentation in Fort Worth, Harris claimed local operatives illegally harvested thousands of ballots over the past four years, resulting in the illegitimate victory of at least two officials – Espino, and State Rep. Ramon Romero Jr. (D–Fort Worth). It’s plausible other candidates who ran on a “slate” with those two officials also benefited.

Harris says hundreds of fraudulent mail-in ballot applications were faxed to the county from Espino’s private office. The link between Espino and the harvesting operation became clear when Harris showed allegedly forged signatures on ballot by mail applications that also contained Espino’s fax number.

Harris also plotted the geographic location of the harvested votes on a map, which showed how operatives systematically moved through neighborhoods. Thousands of mail-in ballot applications appeared to use forged signatures on their application or on their carrier envelopes (or both). The harvesters disproportionately targeted ethnic minorities and low-income voters over 65 years of age.

Both Espino and Romero continue to deny any involvement in the alleged fraud.

Unlike Espino, Romero has not indicated any intention of retiring. Additionally, Harris claims a Republican political consultant aided the illegal vote-harvesters, although that person’s identity remains unknown along with others involved in the alleged criminal enterprise.

It’s worth noting the evidence released by Harris is only a snapshot of the 1,500-page complaint he filed, which included audio and other evidence gathered with the help of private investigators. The Secretary of State wrote that at least five crimes might have been committed, and referred to Harris’ evidence as “voluminous.”

Harris says he is unable to release all of the evidence at this time due to the OAG’s ongoing investigation.

You can see Aaron Harris’ full presentation in October regarding Tarrant County’s alleged voter fraud case on the Empower Texans Facebook page.

 

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