Police in South Texas arrested a second person in the Starr County DA’s growing voter fraud investigation. The suspect allegedly submitted a ballot by mail application for a deceased voter.
Starr County District Attorney Omar Escobar’s voter fraud investigation led to charges being filed against 37-year-old Erika Lozano-Pelayo. Escobar confirmed to the Brownsville Herald that his office filed charges of election fraud and fraudulent application for ballot by mail. Starr County is located west of McAllen, Texas along the U.S.-Mexico Border.
The Starr County Elections Department found that a ballot application submitted by Lozano-Pelayo was for a voter who had previously died, yet remained on the voter registration rolls. The voter died in early December, the local newspaper reported. The application was signed after the voter’s death and was mailed in January.
The timing of the alleged fraudulent ballot application could not have been worse for the defendant. A new law passed by the Texas Legislature (SB5) became effective on December 1, 2017. That new law makes the filing of a fraudulent ballot application a state jail felony.
After receiving reports from the county’s election department, DA Escobar announced a crackdown on voter fraud in his county, Breitbart Texas reported.
“Our legislature has given us a very clear mandate to begin and try to prevent voter fraud,” Escobar told The Monitor.
The county has been under public scrutiny for more than a year for reportedly failing to maintain voter rolls–a catalyst for voter fraud, some experts argued.
The Monitor noted the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) in 2016 which alleges that the county was violating the National Voting Rights Act by failing to keep an accurate list of registered voters. The group is Represented by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) in the suit.
Escobar told Breitbart Texas during a phone interview that he simply wants people to follow the law. He said mail ballots present the greatest opportunity for voter fraud.
The arrest of Lozano-Pelayo is the second to arise from this investigation. On Monday, Starr County officials arrested a school district employee for allegedly filling out ballot applications illegally for other voters. Police arrested 50-year-old Ernestina Barron on three counts of election fraud.
Escobar encouraged other counties to look into the fraudulent registrations after he found noncitizens and felons on the local voter rolls.
The border county DA told reporters, “We are looking to enforce the new election laws passed by our legislature … We want to encourage everyone to vote, but we want to make sure it is the voter’s vote, not someone else’s vote.”
Escobar added, “When people realize the things that can be found in this type of investigation, then maybe other counties will do the same.”
Election officials in Bexar and Harris Counties (San Antonio and Houston) are also facing potential lawsuits from the PILF.
Starr County is among 13 Texas counties showing more than 100 percent voter registration, Breitbart Texas reported in October 2017. The other Texas counties are: Loving, Brooks, Irion, McMullen, Kenedy, Jim Hogg, Culberson, Edwards, Roberts, Polk, Kent, and Cottle, according to the Public Interest Legal Foundation. In response to the second arrest in Starr County this week, the PILF repeated public calls to Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick to support a reform requiring voter identification requirements in the mail voting process. The group cites Kansas’ example of requiring voters to provide driver’s license information or other government-issued identification numbers on absentee ballot applications.
C'mon y'all, we need to build #VoterID into mail voting.
"The Starr County Elections Department discovered that an application for a ballot by mail allegedly was submitted by Lozano-Pelayo for a voter who already had died."@GovAbbott @DanPatrick https://t.co/MZnS9LTmlN
— PublicInterestLegal (@PILFoundation) February 2, 2018
Concerns over noncitizens registered to vote extend beyond the Rio Grande Valley.
The PILF recently gave final notice to Harris County officials, informing them they face “federal litigation should [they] continue to deny access to the requested records” of noncitizens registered to vote. Federal law gives them 90 days to comply with the request before a lawsuit can be filed.
“Harris County is hiding public information about the extent of noncitizen registration and voting,” said PILF president and general counsel, J. Christian Adams. “Harris County is no stranger to the issue of noncitizen voter registration. Evidence and testimony about the matter have been provided to the Texas Legislature and U.S. Supreme Court.”
Adams added, “This isn’t a question about the existence of alien voting — but the scale. We will go to federal court if we must to obtain these public records.”
Breitbart Texas recently reported that Nueces County Clerk Kara Sands told her commissioners court that candidates reported various forms of election fraud in recent campaigns. A city constable candidate received what was described as “constant” complaints from voters about mail-in ballot coercion. Others were reported to be perpetrating election fraud by “cultivating and harvesting votes in large quantities.” Another candidate was approached by someone who promised they could get 250 ballots in exchange for a payment of $1,000.