Investigation: Tilting the Scale

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EDINBURG – A state agency is investigating after learning nearly a dozen people were registered to vote out of a small, one-bedroom home in Edinburg.

In addition, a CHANNEL 5 NEWS investigation found some of those registered voters don’t live Edinburg.

The Texas Rangers are investigating voter fraud out of the city of Edinburg connected to the November 2017 election, according to a Department of Public Safety spokesperson.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS received a tip and information from a viewer about questionable voting practices.

Open records request submitted by CHANNEL 5 NEWS to the Hidalgo County Elections Department resulted in nearly 1,300 new voters and change of address registration forms handed over.

One address stood out. That address is to a home on Fay Street in Edinburg. 

CHANNEL 5 NEWS tracked down the owner of the home to ask who actually lives at the property.

“It’s really a bedroom and a half that they have there,” said the owner of the home. “They turned the living room into a bedroom.”

The homeowner said they rented the home out to two people with three young children. The two people were evicted shortly after the March election.

We got permission to go on the property and inside the home to see how small it is.

Political signs were scattered all over, hanging on fences or laying on the ground. A mess was left inside for the owner to clean up when the renters moved out.

In the months of August and September 2017, five people either changed their address or registered to vote using the home on Fay Street. Their addresses all changed prior to the election.

In all, 11 people are now registered to vote from the address.

Voting records show those 11 people claiming to live at the home on Fay Street all voted at the elections annex building in Edinburg in November.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS continued to follow the trail.

On Sep. 25, 2017, a man submitted a change of address to switch his address to the home on Fay Street. That same man also registered to vote from a home outside of Edinburg’s city limits in 2016.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS went to the home in rural Edinburg to ask questions.

A woman answered the door and told CHANNEL 5 NEWS the man we asked for lives at the home on Fay Street, but Hidalgo County property records show that the man we asked for owns the home in rural Edinburg.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS also learned a campaign worker claimed the Fay Street address on a change of address form on Sept. 26, 2017. Her name and the Fay Street address also appeared on Mayor Richard Molina’s campaign finance report.

According to records, Molina paid her nearly $4,000 for working on his campaign.  

The owner of Fay Street denies that woman lived in the home.

Another change of address form from another person registering to vote out of the home on Fay Street had then-mayoral candidate Richard Molina’s registrar number and signature on the form.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS submitted an interview request to Edinburg’s Public Information Officer Cary Zayas to ask Molina what he knew about this but he declined to do an interview.

So we looked at the campaign finance reports of several candidates.

Hidalgo County Precinct 4 Commissioner Joseph Palacios paid $1,000 to the woman claiming to live on Fay Street. The same woman Molina paid to work on his campaign.

“On that time in November, I think it was just after the city race, we provided a $1,000 retainer to retain her as well as all of her workers,” Palacios said.

Palacios showed CHANNEL 5 NEWS the contracts he had with the woman so she and her workers could work on his recent campaign. Shortly after the contract was signed in November, Palacios canceled it.

“There was all this talk about potential fraud, misrepresentations and part of our retainer is they have to sign a contract, and in that contract, there’s a disclaimer about following all federal, state and local election laws,” Palacios said. “We felt that because of the questions that were out there, in regards to the previous election, that we felt it was in our best interest to discontinue our contract.”

In Texas, you cannot be registered at two separate addresses at the same time. If caught giving false information, you could face up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000, or both.

If you’d like to report voting fraud or have a tip you can reach out to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

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