Thursday, June 15, 2006

Small-Town Politics

Deputies descend on Alton City Hall to confiscate the city's election records, as part of an investigation stemming from more than 20 complaints about Mayor Salvador Vela to the Hidalgo County Elections Department. As Channel 4 reports:

According to the impoundment order application filed by the DA's office, a candidate would enter the polling location and request a private meeting with elections workers and not permit the poll watchers to attend.

There are allegations the mail-in ballots were not secure and that the early voting clerk may have tampered with the absentee ballots.
According to The Monitor's report on the raid, Vela won the most recent election by just 42 out of more than 900 votes:

[Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene] Guerra also noted allegations that "a candidate" — which Navarro identified as Vela — promised voters "preferential treatment in receiving city services" for their vote, and that Vela requested private meetings with voting officials before and on Election Day.
This isn't a clean town. Alton, you might recall, saw its city manager receive a 41-month prison sentence after a federal jury convicted him of extortion and bribery. And, as the background info in The Monitor raid story indicates, the mayor's wife "pleaded no contest in 1993 to charges of elections fraud regarding mail-in ballots." In fact, the county elections administrator called for an investigation into the 2003 Alton city voting, but her plea fell upon deaf ears.

I'm glad the DA's doing something about the complaints this time, but from what he tells The Monitor, he's not too excited about it:
Regardless, Guerra downplayed the raid’s significance, calling securing documents in response to election complaints "nothing out of the ordinary."

"It doesn’t mean there was criminal wrongdoing," he said, adding that election fraud is notoriously difficult to prove.
Guerra has a history of finding excuses not to prosecute voter fraud; let's hope he instead follows through on this case.


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