Dallas vote fraud allegations multiply

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by BRETT SHIPP / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on April 7, 2010 at 10:02 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 8 at 4:39 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

DALLAS — Evidence of potential widespread voter fraud is beginning to mount in two Dallas County primary races.

News 8 first reported the allegations early last month. Now there is new evidence of a more orchestrated campaign by so-called "vote harvesters" allegedly tampering with mail-in ballots.

In question are the Dallas County Precinct 5 Constable and Justice of the Peace races. The primary concern surrounds the mail-in ballots cast in those races.

A growing number of residents have cited case after case of mystery mail-in ballots and strangers showing up at their door, allegedly stealing their votes.

Bob Carter of Oak Cliff said it has happened before at election time, and it happened again a few weeks ago. Mail-in ballots arrived in his mailbox in someone else's name.

The same thing happened to his neighbor next door.

Four mail-in ballots were received by the elections bureau from that address from four people who voted in the March primary.

Carter owns that house, and the people who voted don't live there.

"I know none of them," Carter said.  "My grandson lives there;  he, his wife and child, that's it. I've never heard of them."

A few blocks away, Urbano Zamarripa told News 8 two strangers collected his mail-in ballot and even filled it out him.

"I never wrote down anything," Zamarripa said. "They did everything. They filled it out and they took it."

In West Dallas, a similar story is told by another resident who is afraid to reveal her identity. "I said I don't know who to vote for, and they said they will do it for me, so I don't know who I voted for...  I really didn't know," she said.

Almost the same thing happened to Gloria Rodriguez, who lives just down the street. "Someone helped me vote, they were telling me who I should vote for," she said.

When casting a mail-in ballot, if someone assists the voter in any way, that person is required by law to attest to it. In each of these cases, no signatures were affixed to the mail-in envelope, and there is no evidence that election laws were followed.

In fact, a News 8 review of the ballots showed that of approximately 850 mail-in ballots, only a handful were signed by someone providing assistance to a voter.

Some unsigned ballots should never have been counted at all.

"This is fraud," said Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5, place 1, Luis Sepulveda. "The biggest fraud I've ever seen in my life. It's unbelievable."

Sepulveda feels he lost his re-election bid because of mail-in ballot irregularities.

On Election Day, Sepulveda won, getting 237 more votes than his opponent, Carlos Medrano. But mail-in ballots accounted for nearly one-third of the vote total,  and Sepulveda lost badly.

Medrano beat him by 361 votes.

Since that time, Sepulveda and his workers have scoured the precinct house-by-house, looking for evidence of voter fraud.

He said he has more than 100 affidavits from residents who say their mail-in ballots were mishandled, and he is confident he will have the results in his race overturned.

And for anyone who may dismiss Sepulveda's zeal, they need only recall his days as an activist in West Dallas, taking on the federal government over housing discrimination and lead contamination.

He won then, and he says he will prevail now.

"I fought the lead case," Sepulveda said.  "I'm going to fight this the same way."

Sepulveda has sued his opponent, Carlos Medrano, as well as the Dallas County Elections Administrator, alleging voter fraud.

Medrano's campaign manger denies the allegations and says his organization didn't help anyone with their ballots.

A judge will have to make that determination, and the Texas Attorney General's office has also been called in to investigate.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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