McALLEN, Texas — A U.S. Postal Service employee in this border city has pleaded guilty in federal court to taking money in exchange for sharing the names and addresses of mail ballot voters with Democrat get-out-the-vote operatives, locally known as “politiqueras.”
Tuesday morning, 43-year-old Noe Abdon Olvera went before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez and pleaded guilty to one count of bribery of a public official. Olvera is set to be sentenced in May at which time he faces up to 15 years in prison.
The case against Olvera revealed that in October 2014, Olvera took $1,000 in exchange for names and addresses of residents in his postal route that received absentee ballots during the previous 2014 Democratic Primary. According to prosecutors, Olvera’s role was tied to the 2014 Hidalgo County Sheriff’s race.
The criminal indictment names a Yolanda Perez Hidrogo as the woman who received the names and addresses, however court documents reveal she has not been charged in the case. Hidrogo has been mentioned before in other cases dealing with the buying of postal addresses in connection with mail-in ballots, the McAllen Monitor reported in January 2015. In that case, questions swirled as to whether three sitting members of the La Joya Independent School Board “bribed postal workers and illegally manipulated voters to get re-elected,” the paper noted.
Hidrogo purportedly authored a notarized affidavit in July 2014, detailing her work as a self-professed “politiquera” during City of Mission elections at the time–specifically in support of incumbent Mayor Norberto Salinas’ campaign.
“My job was to handle the mail-in ballots by meeting with the people who received them,” Hidrogo wrote. “I would encourage them to choose Mayor Salinas, and they would.”
The politiquera claimed previous cooperation with Noe Olvera in 2014, noting he was also “paid to work the mail-in ballots.” Hidrogo gave insight into how the mailman electioneered, even on government time:
Noe rode with me a few times to to go talk to people. He was making promises to a lot of people. He told one lady that he was going to help her get her citizenship papers in return for for her vote for Mayor Salinas. Another man we picked up was mentally disabled, and Noe Olvera promised him money for his vote. After taking the man to vote, Noe did not pay him. Noe had given him a card with Mayor Salinas’ name on it so that he would know who to vote for. On several occasions, I would drive behind Noe while he was on his mail route. He would call me and tell me when he would deliver a mail-in ballot at a home. I would write down the addresses or I would stop by and talk to the people. Another day, he called and told me that they had received a lot of mail-in ballots and that he was going to write all the addresses down for me.
Hidrogo’s affidavit notes a change of heart experienced later on in the campaign after she felt guilt toward her political boss’ opponent for showing a willingness to campaign cleanly. She also recounted instances where people should not have voted:
I now feel that the system is very corrupt. It isn’t right. I saw so many people being deceived. There were people who should not have been voting due to mental health reasons. One apartment had a lady who I believe had Alzheimer’s and didn’t really know what I was talking about. I did not help her with the mail-in ballot and I just left. Three days later, I stopped by. Her daughters thanked me for not asking her to vote. They also knew that someone else had gone by and had filled out her mail-in ballot.
Election law attorney and Public Interest Legal Foundation President J. Christian Adams recalled this case was similar to one he pursued while in the Bush Justice Department.
“All under the honorable guise of ‘voter assistance’, local political bosses accessed and leveraged absentee votes to score electoral victories,” Adams said. “Voter fraud is prevalent enough in absentee voting–but when mailmen are willing to work hand-in-glove with [get-out-the-vote] staff, it can become institutionalized.”
Adams argues that Texas election law can do more to serve voters.
“At a minimum, mail voters should be required to provide identification proofs like seen in Kansas. That added safeguard better protects voters when their ballots are wrongfully intercepted,” Adams added.
During the hearing, Olvera and his court appointed attorney, Marco De Luna, notified Alvarez that they had conferred with Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Leonard and were going to plea guilty to the charges. The agreement revealed that prosecutors would recommend a lighter sentence in exchange.
As Breitbart Texas reported, the sheriff’s office was vacated in April 2014 when former Sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño pleaded guilty to money laundering charges for having taken money from a Mexican drug lord living in south Texas. Trevino remains in federal prison.
In 2014, federal authorities charged various political activists for their role in using cocaine, marijuana, and beer to buy votes, Breitbart Texas previously reported.
Ildefonso Ortiz is an award winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and Stephen K. Bannon. You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.