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May 2, 2001
A "highly disturbing" mail voting complaint and cyber-campaigning are among the political maneuverings as the Brownsville City Commission election inches closer.
Today is the last day for early voting. Election Day is Saturday.
A 62-year-old Brownsville resident filed an affidavit with the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office alleging he was approached by a politiquera with an already filled out mail ballot application, stated the document acquired by The Brownsville Herald.
"I find it highly disturbing. Unscrupulous people would take advantage of the elderly, disabled and people who don’t know what the laws are and how the process really works," said Robert S. Mendoza, county elections administrator.
The April 24 affidavit stated, "a ‘politiquera’ … approached me with an Absentee Ballot which was already filled out … with all my personal information, including precinct number and (the politiquera) only wanted my signature."
Politiqueras are electioneers that allegedly get paid to deliver votes — often those of the elderly via mail-in ballots.
Early voting takes place until 5 p.m. today at City Hall and until 5:30 p.m. at the County Courthouse, 974 E. Harrison, and the Brownsville Independent School District Administration Building, 1900 Price.
A person can vote by mail if he or she is over 65, disabled, jailed or out of town, election officials said. The loophole is with the claim of disability because that can’t be verified by officials.
"(The politiquera) checked the reason why I was allegedly applying through absentee ballot was because I was disabled. I am not and have not been disabled," swore the man whose name was blacked out in the copy acquired by The Herald.
"I hope this one case will discourage others from doing the same," Mendoza said.
The district attorney’s office did not return calls to comment.
More than 100 e-mail boxes on the University of Texas at Brownsville-Texas Southmost College computer system received an e-letter last week to vote for Place 3 incumbent Commissioner Harry E. McNair Jr. who is running against Henry Gonzalez.
The e-mail came from McNair’s mother-in-law and TSC board member Mary Rose Cardenas.
Some university faculty members said they felt the e-mail was inappropriate.
"Although it apparently came from her own computer, it seems to me that given (Cardenas’) post on the board of trustees that it was perhaps inappropriate to apparently use the UTB mailing list for partisan political participation," said English professor Robert Sledd.
Cardenas confirmed sending the message and saw nothing inappropriate with it despite her being on the college board.
"And so what difference does that make? They don’t work for me. I don’t sign their paychecks. … That is absurd," she said, adding she was simply urging friends to vote for her son-in-law.
"The computer is just another source of communication," said Cardenas while taking a break from telephoning residents in support of McNair.
"I don’t think there is a question of legality," said professor William Harris, who is president of the university’s Academic Senate. "I suspect it was just bad judgement."
McNair recently gave his reason for not attending the South Texans for Good Government candidate forum on April 18.
"My particular opponent is part of that organization (STGG). Why do I need to go into an arena where the cards are stacked against me?" said McNair adding he felt it would have been "an unfair and uneven field."
The scheduled debate turned into a monologue by Gonzalez, a seafood restaurateur and former mayor.
Place 1 candidate Marlys Cortinas also didn’t attend the forum. Residents later said she was spotted that evening at a school board candidate’s pachanga.
Cortinas explained the funeral of her daughter’s mother-in-law was at 2 p.m. and after she left her daughter’s home it was 6:30 p.m. and her daughter encouraged her to go to the pachanga.
The real estate agent also said that the her personal Chapter 13 bankruptcy mentioned in a Sunday ad by her opponent Dr. Joseph A. Zavaletta was filed 10 years ago.
"It was 10 years ago and I paid it off," she said.
Signs of the times
Place 6 candidate Robert Uresti, who is running on a small budget and for the first time, expressed surprise recently after his small signs disappeared from the front of the BISD building.
"I’m disappointed. I put my sign at BISD and they tore it down. I put up another one and they tore it down again," said the high school teacher. "I haven’t done anything to anybody."
Cortinas and Gonzalez have also reported missing signs. And some McNair billboards were splashed with paint. Uresti is running against Alice Wilson and Luigi Cristiano.
by By DANIEL BORUND, The Brownsville Herald. © 2000 The Brownsville Herald