The Texas Attorney General’s Office is once again investigating voter fraud in South Texas.

Project Red TX, an organization that recruits and supports Republican candidates for local- and county-level political offices, revealed Thursday that Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office obtained a search warrant last week and conducted a raid of the Starr County Elections Department.

The press release asserted that the AG’s office is investigating alleged illegal voting and ballot harvesting conducted during the run-up to the November 2022 election.

The search and seizure record indicates at least 180 rejected ballots were seized, as well as the voter registration form of one of the subjects of the investigation, Modesto Vela.

Vela has ties to Starr County Judge Eloy Vera.

In October 2022, Project Red TX filed a complaint with the Texas Secretary of State that alleged illegal ballot harvesting. The raid is apparently related to this initial complaint.

It is alleged that Modesto Vela of Roma, Texas, illegally assisted at least one Starr County voter in filling out a mail-in ballot. Vela allegedly entered the home of a voter, filled out the ballot, and left the home in possession of the ballot. Project Red TX asserts there is photographic evidence depicting Vela leaving the property and an audio recording of Vela admitting to leaving with possession of the ballot. The complaint also claimed that Vela said she worked for Starr County Judge Eloy Vera.

Project Red TX stated:

Multiple laws within the Texas Election Code were allegedly violated in this instance, including influencing the independent exercise of the vote of another in the presence of the ballot (Sec, 276.013), illegal possession of a mall ballot or carrier envelope as part of a vote harvesting operation (Sec. 276.015), and illegal compensation for carrier envelope action (Sec 86.0052).

Voting by mail in Texas is very restricted, as only a few categories of individuals may submit mail-in ballots, including voters over 65 and those out of the county during the election. Politiqueras are South Texas political operatives who are paid to “harvest” mail-in ballot votes for candidates. They collect ballot applications from voters and visit voters’ homes to help fill out and return the ballots.

Vela was also associated with Starr County Judge Eloy Vera. The county judge told The Monitor that he previously employed Vera—a Democrat—as a politiquera but that many others, including Republicans, had also employed her.

The county judge blasted Project Red TX and the raid as politically motivated, telling The Monitor, “I think this is more political. And they try and do everything and they try to publicize it to make it seem like the Democratic Party here in the Valley is totally corrupted, but, in my opinion, it’s not[.]”

The raid of the Starr County Elections Department is the latest investigation of voter fraud in South Texas. In February, the Texas Attorney General’s Office announced an investigation of a Laredo City Council race for illegal voting. The margin of victory for the candidate in that race was small enough that the number of illegal votes could have changed the outcome.

Voters can report instances of suspected fraud to the secretary of state, who will refer them to the Office of the Attorney General for investigation.

David Vasquez

David Vasquez is a native of the Rio Grande Valley, where he was born and raised in Weslaco, TX. He attended The University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor's degree in Government and a minor in English. Following graduation in 2019, David returned home and began writing for Texas Scorecard.