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Official raises concerns of voter fraud in Hidalgo County (Heart of DemocratCounrty in Texas).
The McAllen Montior | 10/22/2002

Posted on 10/22/2002 10:12:42 PM PDT by The South Texan

Official raises concerns of voter fraud in Hidalgo County

By Susan Martinez

The Monitor

PHARR — A study commissioned by the Hidalgo County Republican Party shows that about 16,000 dead or unqualified voters remain registered to vote in the county, dramatically increasing the opportunity for voter fraud in the November election, party officials said.

Hidalgo County Republican Party Chairman Hollis Rutledge Jr. said the results of the study damage the integrity of the county’s voting system, and he questions the efficiency of the county officials responsible for maintaining accurate voter registration rolls.

“I’m very disappointed by Hidalgo County’s failure to maintain the integrity of our voter files and election administration,” he said. “The dead and ineligible voters still on Hidalgo County’s rolls offer ample opportunities for voter fraud and political mischief as election day approaches and during the current early voting period.”

VoterViews Information Systems of Austin, a nonpartisan research firm that opened in 1998, conducted the study.

The company’s general manager, R.L. Edwards, said the company performs studies for both parties. He said he did not know the margin of error for the Hidalgo County study.

VoterViews in May began compiling the county’s voter registration list, cross-referencing it with information on deaths obtained from the Social Security Administration and with change of address information from the U.S. Postal Service.

According to the study, VoterViews identified 11,638 people from U.S. Postal Service records that filed a change of address outside of the county but remain on the voter registration rolls.

It also identified 4,223 names and addresses on the voter rolls that are “potentially dead” with information provided by the Social Security Administration.

Of those 4,223 believed to be dead, 912 were identified as active voters during their lives. Of those, 227 voted in the 2000 General Election after their death.

Hidalgo County Elections Administrator Teresa Navarro said no one has contacted her office with the allegations and she is shocked to find out that Rutledge, a member of the county election commission, took it upon himself to commission the study.

“I’m disappointed that he would conduct this study without the assistance of the election administration and commission,” she said. “How can we do anything about it if he doesn’t work with us?”

Rutledge said he would “entertain” presenting the findings to the election administration, but thought releasing the information to the public was more important.

He said there was room for error in the study because VoterViews could only cross reference exact names with addresses. So, if two exact names showed up at the same address, that name should be flagged on the county’s voter rolls and the person would be required to show identification at the poll in order to vote.

“My father and I lived at the same address until he died two years ago,” Rutledge said. “Both of our names came up because I’m a junior and we lived in the same house. These types of errors can be corrected.”

Rutledge said he didn’t know how many of the names found by VoterViews could be attributed to this same error and VoterViews did not release margin of error information.

“The elections commission cannot intrude on the daily duties of elections administrator,” he said. “I am not criticizing or accusing anyone. I’m just perturbed that over the years they have not been paying attention.”

Navarro said her office complies with the law governing election procedure set forth by the state Legislature and overseen by the Texas Secretary of State’s office, which provides each county with updated information on its registered voters. The office also receives death certificates from the County Clerk’s office.

“We are bound by the election code,” she said. “We are not investigators and cannot investigate whether someone is dead or alive. We go on what is provided to us by the Secretary of State.”

Navarro said the county’s voter registration information is updated daily.

She and County Clerk J.D. Salinas said the county’s voter registration system is old and outdated, but that requests for a new one repeatedly have been turned down by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court.

“For the last four years as county clerk, I have been talking about investing money into a better registration system before we buy new voting machines,” Salinas said. “Ours is completely outdated and we need a new system that would be more efficient in taking care of these kinds of problems if they do exist.”

Navarro said finding 16,000 of the county’s 257,753 registered voters ineligible seems like an inordinately high number. She also pointed out that grand jury investigations have found voter fraud in the county to be limited to mail-in ballots, which her office has taken steps to correct.

The state does not require driver’s license numbers or Social Security numbers when a person registers to vote, she said. Once a voter signs the card saying he lives in the county, the county is bound by law to allow that person to vote.

“The changes (Rutledge) is calling for require legislative changes,” she said. “If we had (Social Security numbers or driver’s license numbers) to track, that would be great. But until the state requires it, there’s nothing we can do.”

Rutledge said the Republican Party was prompted to look at Hidalgo County’s voter registration rolls after the 1998 presidential election, when only 2,000 votes decided the election and Florida’s voting system came under scrutiny. He said he wants Hidalgo County to avoid the same sort of voting problems.

“We do not want another Florida here in Hidalgo County,” he said.

Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Guerra said the study is simply a ploy by the Republican Party to intimidate Hidalgo County voters during early voting.

“The Republican Party knows that here in Hidalgo County, where we have a record (early) turnout, the vast majority of those votes are Democrats, and they’re scared,” he said. “They are trying to make voters lose confidence in the voting system because when voters don’t have confidence in the system, they don’t vote.”

Guerra pointed out that the county’s voter turnout has increased by about 500 percent since 1998. On the first day of early voting in 1998, only 327 people voted. This year, 1,925 voted.

“This is a company hired by the Republican Party. How in the world can this be accurate?” he said. “The elections administration has been trying to clean up the voter registration rolls and they’ve done a good job of it with the limited technology they have.”

TOPICS: Breaking News; Crime/Corruption; Politics/Elections; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: cornyn; kirk; perry; sanchez; texasgovernorsrace; ussenate; votefraud; voterfraud
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To: Dog Gone
[County government is actually FAR more powerful than state government in Texas, which has very limited powers. That's why all the busts of city and county officials in this state come from the FBI. ]

Yes, I did know there was a lot of power in county governments.

Thanks for the info on the book. I am going to try to locate it.

41 posted on 10/23/2002 1:00:16 PM PDT by nanny
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 37 | View Replies]

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