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South Texas authorities nabbed a second suspect in their ongoing investigation of mail ballot voter fraud in the Rio Grande Valley.
Erika Lozano-Pelayo was arrested in Starr County today for allegedly submitting a mail ballot application for a voter who had already died. The application was signed and dated after the voter’s death in December.
Lozano-Pelayo faces charges of election fraud, a misdemeanor, and fraudulent use of a ballot-by-mail application, a felony under a new law enacted last year to crack down on mail ballot voter fraud.
Senate Bill 5 made it a state jail felony to provide false information on a ballot application or submit an application without a voter’s permission.
Today’s arrest comes just days after Starr County’s Special Crimes Unit arrested another voter fraud suspect, Ernestina Barron. The politiquera was charged with three misdemeanors and three felonies for allegedly filling out mail ballot applications for three voters who aren’t eligible to vote by mail. The voters say Barron falsely claimed they were disabled, without their knowledge.
Starr County District Attorney Omar Escobar launched the voter fraud probe in January, just weeks ahead of the March 6 primary elections, when county elections officials alerted him to questionable mail ballot applications.
At least one other case of a ballot application submitted for a deceased voter is still being investigated, the DA confirmed.
Officials are also working to identify non-citizens, felons, and other ineligible people on Starr County’s voter rolls. The county is being sued in federal court for failing to maintain current voter registration lists. The lawsuit dates back to the tenure of the county’s previous elections administrator, Rafael Montalvo.
“What we want,” says Escobar, “is for everybody to follow the election rules.”