Posted: Jan 13, 2014 7:53 PM
Updated: Jan 13, 2014 9:54 PM
EDINBURG - The Hidalgo County District Attorney's Office will launch an investigation into allegations of voter fraud in recent elections.
Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently arrested three Hidalgo County women accused of paying for votes in the 2012 General Election. Federal officials said the women affected the outcome of some elections.
"In South Texas, the people that have influence over the elderly, nursing homes and adult day care centers ... they now have taken it one step higher," Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra said.
Guerra, himself an elected official, said he will not let politics get in the way of the investigation.
Guerra said politiqueras charge candidates thousands of dollars in exchange for hundreds of votes.
"A candidate who is desperate and is spending a lot of money doesn't care. The person who doesn't work that kind of campaign does care and doesn't hire those kinds of people," Guerra said.
The politiquera problem is widespread in the Rio Grande Valley, officials said. They said similar schemes operate nationwide.
Officials said politiqueras work for a candidate and solicit votes for that person. It becomes illegal when they trade anything in exchange for that vote.
Federal agents said the three women they arrested traded cash and food for votes. One of the women is accused of giving people rides to drug houses in exchange for votes.
Guerra said politiqueras also cross the line when they go to the polling location.
"The criminal aspect that I'm looking at, and I'm sure that we will conduct some investigations in the future, is that where the people are going into the polling place and making sure that that person is paid and votes the right way for the person who hired the politiquera," he said.
"We had, in past campaigns, people assist 700 (voters)," Guerra said.
A look at recent races in the region revealed that 700 votes could change the outcome of the election.
"I think this is destroying the fabric of a good democratic process," Guerra said.
Guerra said the Texas Legislature will have to act to put an end to the politiquera problem.