A Texas woman pleaded guilty on June 16 to 26 counts of voter fraud committed during a local water board election in 2018.
Monica Mendez, 36, of Port Lavaca, Texas, ran a “vote-harvesting operation on behalf of a subsidized housing corporation in order to influence the outcome of a utility board election,” the Texas Attorney General’s (AG) Office said in a June 17 statement. The election in question was the 2018 Victoria County Water Control and Improvement District 1 Election in Bloomington, Texas.
Mendez pleaded guilty to 26 felony counts of voter fraud, including three counts of illegal voting, eight counts of election fraud, seven counts of assisting a voter to submit a ballot by mail, and eight counts of unlawful possession of a mail ballot, the office stated.
Victoria County District Judge Eli Garza sentenced Mendez to five years of deferred adjudication probation.
Victoria County Elections Administrator Margetta Hill told The Epoch Times on June 20 that Mendez worked as a volunteer deputy registrar voter and assisted residents to register to vote during Bloomington’s 2018 water board election.
Mendez was signing applications to register to vote and also applications to vote by mail, Hill said.
According to a local media outlet, the Victoria Advocate, the 2018 water board election appeared on the radar of the AG’s office after about 275 of the 2,500 people who registered to vote used the same mailing address, which is associated with rental properties linked to a local housing nonprofit called ALMS. The nonprofit operates as La Raza Unidos, the outlet reported.
According to the nonprofit’s 2018 tax filings, La Raza Unidos described its mission as distributing “new and gently used clothing to men, women, and children, free of charge.”
“This is not about one renegade person harvesting ballots,” Engelbrecht said. “It’s happening in hundreds of communities all over the country.
“And this is just one front of a thousand-front war on our elections.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Election Integrity Unit and the Victoria County District Attorney’s Office jointly prosecuted the case.
Since 2015, Paxton has successfully prosecuted 534 election fraud offenses against 155 individuals, according to the AG’s website. Currently, 43 individuals in Texas have a prosecution pending. The AG is conducting 386 open voter fraud investigations.
“Secure elections are the cornerstone of a thriving republic,” a statement on the AG’s website reads. “A key priority of the Attorney General is to investigate and prosecute the increasing allegations of voter fraud to ensure election integrity within Texas.”
Currently, charges for election fraud in Texas range from misdemeanor offenses up to felonies.
According to the AG’s office, “significant improvements” in election integrity laws in the state in 2017 have led to a “steady increase” in the number of voter fraud referrals.
The Texas state legislature passed legislation (S.B. 5) in 2017 that increased the penalties for most mail ballot-related offenses to felonies subjected to state jail time. It again increased criminal penalties and created criminal offenses for election fraud by passing S.B. 1 in 2021.
Officials from Paxton’s office and Mendez’s attorney didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time.