Back in 2005, Attorney General Greg Abbott announced with a flourish a rash of arrests in South Texas on various counts of voter fraud. These arrests, some of which were announced while the Lege was debating a voter ID bill, were cited as evidence by Abbott of an “epidemic”, for which voter ID was naturally the solution. Many of these cases ultimately wound up being dismissed, with the last batch in Hidalgo County getting dropped last week.
In 2005, Belasquez and seven other politiqueras — operatives paid by campaigns to collect votes — were indicted on charges they mishandled ballots of elderly and disabled voters during their work on the McAllen mayoral race earlier that year.
At the time, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, described the case as yet another reminder that “voter fraud is occurring on a large scale when viewed statewide, and consequently, our state elections are significantly impacted.”
Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra, a Democrat, cautioned local politicians that the indictments should serve as a warning to all those who thought they could get away with tampering with local elections.
But despite the fanfare, nearly all the charges have been dismissed five years later.
The problem with all the McAllen voter fraud cases, said Guerra during a recent interview, was that the investigations were weak, pushed on his office by the Texas Rangers and the attorney general and nearly impossible to prove at trial.
Many of the allegations involved politiqueras purportedly pressuring disabled and elderly voters to select certain candidates on their mail-in ballots. But without actually proving the election workers filled out or changed the ballots themselves, it was nearly impossible to convince a jury that criminal activity occurred, the DA said.
“I don’t care what party you’re from, you’re going to have people out hustling votes,” he said. “In some places, they’ll call them politiqueras. In others, they’ll call it paid campaign staff.”
See here, here, and here for some background. One thing that’s been true in all of the cases Abbott has pushed is that they involved mail in ballots, which as I’ve observed would be unaffected by any legislation that required photo ID to vote in person. Abbott and his allies, of course, never drew that distinction, since the purpose of the voter ID legislation that keeps getting pushed in the Lege isn’t about stopping the kind of voter fraud that actually happens, it’s about making it harder for certain people to vote. In the end, even the fraud cases that Abbott claimed to have found turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. It’s no surprise to me.