Starr Co. Election Fraud Case Reveals Votes Cast by Those Deceased

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RIO GRANDE CITY – Dead, but still voting. The Attorney General's Office says it's looking into a case of election fraud in Starr County.

He voted not once, or twice, but three times since he was laid to rest, that's according to a representative of the Texas Attorney General's Office.

Brantley Star, deputy first assistant with the AG's Office said, "One shout out to a voter in Starr County, a retired district judge, born in 1930. By the time, 2010 rolled around he was 80 years old and has voted still three times since then, to the best of our knowledge, a county judge. The interesting thing that's remarkable of him voting three times in his 80s is he died in May of 2010."

They're talking about the former Starr County Judge Blas Chapa. The Secretary of State's Office sent CHANNEL 5 NEWS his voting records following a request.

They show times he voted during his life right up to two months before his death. He last voted eight years ago. He died in 2010.

Yet, his registration account still lists him as "active." That's not what should happen when a voter dies.

The election code states a notice should be sent to the local voter registrar and the Secretary of State's Office. This way, the death can be recorded. Something failed in that process, says Starr District Attorney Omar Escobar, Jr.

"Well, how does that happen? Probably because the death certificate probably never made its way to the Elections Administration Office to be processed,” said Escobar. “So, what do you do? You probably have to go back. I don't want to delve into that. I don't know whose responsibility it's going to be. But, can the county clerk go back 20-30 years to all the death certificates and send them all over to the Elections Administrator?"

The Secretary of State's Office says they will cancel a person's name from the list of registered voters only if they have a strong match of information. They work with data from a death master file compiled by the Bureau of Vital Statistics and the Social Security Administration Office.

If they match the last name and former last name, date of birth, and the same nine digits of the social security number they will strike the person's name from the roll.

If it’s a weak match, they send it to the county. The Elections Director Keith Ingram explains what happens in that case.

"If they can't make a determination, then they send the voter a letter asking them to report if they are, in fact, alive. If there is no response to the letter within thirty days, then the voter is canceled,” said Ingram. “However, if the voter does later show up to vote, and they were cancelled incorrectly, they can be immediately be reinstated under the Election Code."

The state and county are both looking into this case. The Attorney General's Office says they came upon this case by accident. It surfaced as a result of a civil lawsuit.

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