Texas: Dope the Vote Ring Convicted
Evidence of voter fraud continues to emerge in Texas as a federal judge sentenced Donna resident Rebecca Gonzales for one count of election fraud in a 2012 local school board race. Gonzales was one of three campaign workers or “politiqueras” originally arrested by the FBI in December 2013 after a targeted investigation.
The going rate for votes in the McAllen exurb appears relatively cheap, according to local reports. Gonzales, along with Guadalupe Escamilla and Diana Castañeda were initially accused of purchasing votes for preferred candidates with nominal amounts of cash, beer and tobacco products. Gonzales admitted to FBI investigators that she influenced roughly 10 individuals in the 2012 Election cycle and offered voters a ride to purchase illegal drugs after casting their ballot.
Ms. Gonzales is free on bond until her sentencing hearing – slated for April 2014. Federal law explicitly states that individuals may not “pay[s] or offers to pay or accept[s] payment either for registration to vote or for voting.” The federal court can levy a $10,000 fine and/or imprisonment for no more than five years.
Federal election crimes may be prosecuted even if the individual was seeking to influence a local election, provided that federal candidates are on the same ballot.
Local officials recently announced an alliance with a local grassroots election integrity outfit, Citizens Against Voter Abuse, to help expose future abuses of the electoral system at the precinct level. Similar to the Houston-based True the Vote model, CAVA will connect local residents with training materials to serve as volunteer poll watchers in the 2014 Election and beyond.
“I encourage everyone to get informed and participate in the process because it’s ours,” CAVA founder Mary Helen Flores told a local paper.