DALLAS – The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office has secret audio recordings in which a campaign worker claims he pays off someone inside the county elections to find out when mail-in ballots get sent out.
Sidney Williams, 33, made the audio recordings of Jose Barrientos. Williams shared the audio with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office and WFAA.
Barrientos told WFAA that the recordings are just “guy talk.” He said he has not done anything illegal.
"I don't do that stuff. I know that looks bad me and Sidney talking s*** or trash. That looks bad. And I know it does but that's just talk,” Barrientos told WFAA.
Williams: What do we do, chase the mailman or how does that work?
Barrientos: Your homeboy that's at the elections office. He tells you when the f*****g ZIP codes are dropping. He'll tell you like 75221 fixing to hit. Today. They're going out.
Williams: He tells you that?
Barrientos: He's not supposed to but yeah. But then you've got to drop a hundred or two or three. Whatever it is. He can't do it for free.
"He goes in there. He speaks to this county employee. The county employee tips him off by ZIP code, lets him know which precincts are dropping," explained Williams. "Either he's stealing them from the mailbox, yanking them from a little old lady who probably has them, says he's going to assist her in a specific way for a specific candidate."
Identifying a person named “Jose Rodriguez,” who has signed dozens, perhaps hundreds of mail-in ballots, is the biggest mystery in Dallas County politics right now.
How easy is it to steal a ballot in Dallas County, WFAA asked Williams.
“Easy,” he responded.
This is becoming one of the biggest voter fraud investigations underway in Texas.
Williams’ recordings provide new clues for county prosecutors who have spent the last couple months investigating allegations of voter fraud.
On the recordings, Barrientos also suggests he has forged applications for mail-in or absentee ballots.
Williams: Where did you get this from?
Barrientos: Umm. You ask too many questions. What are you trying to be a cop or something?
Barrientos: I just got a copy of it. That's the first absentee ballot that was filed as a fraudulent absentee.
Williams: The first absentee. Who did it? They didn't catch it?
Barrientos: Look who signed it. Jose Rodriguez. I don't remember my name being Rodriguez but… (laughs) You're talking to the master, bro. You ain't got to sweat me. It was brought to my attention because it looks like my handwriting.
Williams: It does. I ain't even going to lie. It looks like your signature.
Barrientos: Maybe. Maybe not. I'll never tell.
"I believe he's saying all this because he has no other outlet. There's a bigger investigation. He's aware of the investigation. The only thing is no one knows who this Jose Rodriguez is. I do,” said Williams.
On his Facebook page, Barrientos poses in pictures with politicians.
Leading up to the Dallas city council election on May 6, Barrientos said on the recordings that he was working to defeat councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo.
Barrientos: We got about like 700. Monica is going down, bro.
Williams: Hold on, what?
Barrientos: Monica is going down.
Barrientos: Absentees bro.
Williams: They can't even keep up.
The claim of 700 referred to ballots, Williams said.
Last week, prosecutors looking into voter fraud filed a notice of investigation of criminal conduct which read in part: "The Dallas County Elections Department has in excess of 700 "Mail-In Ballots" that are directly linked to applications assisted by "Jose Rodriguez," or are suspicious in nature…"
Williams said he has spoken to prosecutors and shared his recordings with them.
The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office said it has an ongoing investigation underway and did not comment on the recordings obtained by WFAA.
Toni Pippins Poole, Dallas County's Elections Administrator, issued a similar statement to WFAA.
“I have to apologize,” she wrote in an email, “I am unable to have that interview with you at this time. I have been instructed by the assistant district attorney not to take any interviews due to the ongoing investigation into such allegations.”
The address on the Rodriguez applications is a house on Waweenoc Ave. in Oak Cliff. The family who lives there told WFAA that no such person resides at that home.
But it is the same place listed on a ballot request that someone filled out for 81-year-old Alice Washington last month.
"That's not my signature,” she told WFAA in April while holding an application for a mail-in ballot.
"Every campaign has like that guy that takes care of the laundry. The dirty laundry," said Jose Barrientos.
He insists he has never been that person and reiterated that he has never used “Jose Rodriguez” as an alias.
Barrientos brought a rejected mail-in ballot with Rodriguez's name on it to WFAA though he would not explain where it came from.
"You know the Democrats are tired of getting their asses handed to them,” said Barrientos to WFAA.
Are the Democrats cheating, WFAA asked.
“I wouldn't say cheating,” Barrientos continued. “They're more aggressive in going after the [absentee] vote. It's the quickest way in putting points on the board.”
Only voters over 65 or disabled can cast an absentee ballot.
"It's an open market. Whoever gets to that voter first when he gets his ballot in the mail, right, that's who gets that vote. Nine times out of ten they're going to vote for who the person in front of him tells him to,” Barrientos explained to WFAA. "This is what works on everybody. Let me give you the stamp. The U.S. Postal stamp. I mean 99.9 percent of the time they're going to vote for whoever you suggest. You've got to understand, especially in poverty neighborhoods, most of these seniors don't have anybody to come visit them."
They’re voters who became victims and are now at the center of a widening criminal investigation in which these audio recordings are now a new clue.
After WFAA published this story, the Texas Democrats released the following statement:
“Texas Democrats believe mail-in ballot voter fraud and discriminatory Republican laws recently struck down by the courts are both bad for democracy. These disgusting actions silence Texan’s voice at the ballot box, and they have got to stop. A full and thorough investigation is warranted.
“I want to thank Democratic State Representative Eric Johnson, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins for leading the charge to protect the vote and get to the bottom of these fraud allegations.
“Democrats have always said it is time for solutions on mail-in ballot fraud. These pleas were ignored as Republicans told fairy tales about rampant in-person voter impersonation only to pass discriminatory voter ID laws that make it harder for people to vote.
“I’m proud that this legislative session, the Texas Democratic Party proposed legislation and worked with members of both parties to make it easier for older Texans to vote and crack down on fraud.
“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. Democrats will continue to do everything in our power to protect every Texan’s right to vote.”
© 2017 WFAA-TV