Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is investigating a case of purported voter fraud where a border county judge, who, although dead since 2010, continues to vote.
This stunning information surfaced at a February Senate Select Committee on Election Security meeting when Brantley Starr, deputy first assistant to the AG, gave a “shout out” to the retired district judge born in 1930 who remains on the registration rolls despite his death nearly eight years ago.
“The interesting thing that’s remarkable of him voting three times in his 80’s is he died in May of 2010,” remarked Starr.
That voter was Starr County Judge Blas Chapa, whose obituary ran in The Monitor within days of his passing. KRGV obtained the late judge’s voting records from the Texas Secretary of State. They showed Chapa voted right up to two months before he died. His voter registration account status remains “active” and, as noted, he voted three times since he died. Records indicate that despite his May 2010 death, he’s credited for casting a regular ballot in November 2010, plus the 2016 primary and general elections.
The AG’s office said they learned about Chapa’s post-mortem voting record after it surfaced in discovery in a civil lawsuit against Starr County’s voter registration record maintenance practices.
In March 2016, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), an election integrity law firm, filed a civil lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) against the Starr County election administrator. The court documents alleged the county failed to utilize reasonable efforts to keep voter rolls maintained properly to avoid fraud and other irregularities. The complaint alleged that county rolls contained more registered voters than citizens resident in Starr at the time.
The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), more commonly known as the “motor voter” law, requires states to “implement procedures to maintain accurate and current voter registration lists.”
Additionally, the Texas Election Code requires that a notice gets sent to a local voter registrar and the Secretary of State to ensure a death is recorded. At the Senate committee meeting, Starr County District Attorney Omar Escobar, Jr., said something failed in the process and the death certificate never made it to the elections administration office for processing.
Breitbart Texas obtained a court document filed by the ACRU in the Starr County case. It alleges innumerable voter registration list failures of the elections administrator, including leaving dead registrants in the system, despite having access to the information about the deceased.
The filing makes the alarming observation that, “written statements were provided by multiple people about a volunteer deputy voter registrar informing noncitizens that they may register to vote and, upon learning such allegations, [Starr County] did not even contact the accused registrar to investigate further.”
It also cited examples of improper registration conduct in cases where applicants did not provide the requisite data for their ballots, some who improperly provided a P.O. Box as their residential address, and others who were approved to vote even though they marked the citizenship checkbox “no” or left it unchecked, which violates Texas and federal law.
In January, Breitbart Texas reported that Escobar vowed to crack down on voter fraud in response to questionable voter rolls and allegations of mail-in ballot application fraud involving, in part, dead voters:
Several requests for a mail ballot contained false details about the alleged applicants while at least one was filled in the name of a deceased person still listed as a registered voter. The DA also gave the elections department a list of those convicted of felonies, including those who are on felony probation and ineligible to vote for the purpose of removing them from the rolls.
The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 5 (SB 5) last special session which makes it a crime to give false information on a voter application. It also provides for a criminal penalty to apply in the name of a potential voter without their consent. The offense is a felony.
Paxton responded to Escobar’s stance by assisting with the county’s voter fraud prosecutions. To date, seven people have been arrested.
The late Judge Chapa rose to national media attention in the 1990s when the State of Texas accused him and a business partner of operating as a slum lord in the border adjacent “colonias,” home to significant numbers of Mexican immigrants. Texas demanded $21.6 million related to claims that he sold plots of land to homeowners without the locally-required roads, sewers, and other utilities necessary for closing a sale. The New York Times noted in 1995 that Chapa was operating an illegal trash dump that he later covered to develop more residential plots.
Starr County, located on the U.S.-Mexico Border, is part of the combined Rio Grande City and McAllen-Edinburg statistical area. It is one of 13 Texas counties with more registered voters than eligible residents, according to the Public Interest Legal Foundation.
Breitbart Texas reported PILF recently put Bexar and Harris counties on notice for failing to disclose noncitizen registered voter records. Federal lawsuits may follow this year. PILF argues that the NVRA allows them public inspection rights of voter maintenance records.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.