Surveillance video obtained by 6 Investigates shows a possible election violation in Robstown (KRIS 6 News).
A candidate seen talking to voters who are waiting in line to vote could be a violation of state election laws.
Surveillance video obtained by 6 Investigates shows candidate Robert Gonzalez mingling with voters inside the polls on December 20th.
That day Robstown voters had two choices on the ballot – incumbent Gonzalez or challenger Cezar Martinez. Gonzalez won the election by 70 votes.
6 Investigates reviewed hours of surveillance footage. Several times Gonzalez talked with voters waiting in line. At one point, he pulled one voter out of line and that voter returned a short time later to cast her ballot.
6 Investigates reviewed a copy of the footage with Nueces County Clerk Kara Sands who oversees county elections.
"I would call that loitering and electioneering – absolutely,” Sands said.
Texas Election Code prohibits candidates from being in a poll location if they are within plain view or ear shot of voters. The reason is because that behavior could influence a voter’s decision. There also are laws that prohibit candidates from campaigning or asking for votes within 100 feet of a poll location.
But on Election Day for the runoff, Gonzalez stood next to voters in line to vote.
In the surveillance footage, Gonzalez is seen four times walking into the polls with voters and then into the voting booth area.
The issue came up during the general election, said Herman Rodriguez, Robstown City Secretary.
If a voter is blind, disabled or illiterate, Texas Election laws say that voter has the right to ask anyone for help or assistance in the voting booth. That includes a candidate listed on the ballot, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office.
Gonzalez helped 19 people vote during the runoff election, according to oath records in the Nueces County Clerk’s Office.
For several of those voters, it was their first time to vote in 10 years, according to voter data analyzed by 6 Investigates.
One of the voters who received assistance from Gonzalez is Victor Guerrero. He has trouble reading and writing, but that hasn’t stopped him from being an active voter. Gonzalez voted early in the runoff election. When he arrived at the polls, he asked for help. That was when he was told who would assist him.
"That's what they said – ‘This man is going to help you.’ And I said, ‘OK.’"
The man who ended up helping him was Gonzalez. Guerrero said he did plan to vote for Gonzalez that day, and the fact that Gonzalez ended up helping him vote didn’t change his mind.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office is investigating the election after receiving complaints, according to Sands.