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6 Investigates: City officials in Robstown violate state rules for upcoming election

Posted: 7:52 PM, Oct 04, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-05 10:16:06-04

An upcoming election in Robstown is in violation of state rules.

That’s according to state election officials. Robstown city officials have called for a special meeting on noon Friday to make last minute changes to better comply with the Texas Election Code, said Herman Rodriguez, Robstown City Secretary.

This comes after 6 investigates discovered the problem and contacted the Texas Secretary of State’s Office. As it stands now, Robstown voters will have to go to two places to vote in the November elections: City Hall for the utility board election and the Johnny Calderon Building to vote in the county, state and national elections.

6 Investigates asked the Texas SOS about it and were told Robstown is in violation of the election code.
The law requires one location for all voting. The idea of the law is so voters are not confused about where to vote.

To avoid confusion and try to come into compliance, Rodriguez said he will ask the council to move its poll site to the Johnny Calderon Building. But even with that change, the city of Robstown will be out of compliance on Election Day – Nov. 6. That’s because under the law the city is supposed to have a presence at all 84 poll sites throughout the entire county.

Rodriguez said he’s not sure the city will be able to comply with that rule. If the city does not comply, the election could be challenged in court, according to the Texas Secretary of State.

The election troubles come months after the Texas Attorney General’s Office indicted three Robstown residents, including an elected official, for voter fraud in past elections.

Robstown’s changes for the upcoming election began under the advisement of the Robstown City Attorney, said Rodriguez. There were concerns that if the city joined with Nueces County to hold the election there might be problems like had occurred in the past, Rodriguez said.

He referred to a voter fraud incident that was the subject of a KRIS 6 News investigation.

Surveillance video of a December 2016 runoff election showed then- Robstown Utility Board candidate Gonzalez talking to voters in line and even helping some cast their ballots. The Texas Attorney General’s Office later indicted Gonzalez on felony voter fraud charges for his behavior in that election. His case is pending and expected to go to trial on Oct. 22. Gonzalez is not on the ballot for the November election, but remains in office.

Rodriguez said the city sought to control the election to avoid problems like that from happening again. (The previous election was overseen by the Nueces County Clerk’s Office, which reported the suspected voter fraud in that election and other elections to the Texas AG.)

Rodriguez said he disagreed with the city’s decision to manage the upcoming election.

“I felt like these issues were maybe something that I could mitigate and I did not want to solely just go on our own,” he said.

City Councilman Cezar Martinez wasn’t at the meeting in May where the vote happened, but said he trusted city staff would follow all election laws.

“We vote on this issue thinking that we’re in compliance with the law and now that they bring forward that we’re not,” he said. “It’s three weeks away from early voting and now we have to try to make it right.”

It’s too late to join the county election, said Kara Sands, Nueces County Clerk. Those deadlines have passed.

“If they could, if we had time, we absolutely would help them,” she said. “Everything has been programmed. The ballot has been programmed.”