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County delays releasing public information

Hidalgo-County-SealNathan Schwarz protested the lack of cooperation of the elections department during an open forum Tuesday at a meeting of Hidalgo County Commissioners.

Schwarz is a member of a group of citizens that has been trying to ascertain public records over recent elections to determine if there is voter fraud in Hidalgo County.

Schwarz told commissioners last month he had requested copies of public records under the Texas Public Information Act. His requests included the following dates: Sept. 17, 2011; Nov. 8, 2011; July 31, 2012; Nov. 6, 2012; May 11, 2013; June 22, 2013; Nov. 5, 2013; and Mar. 4, 2014. The information he requested accounted for event logs, system logs, the actual vote cast records and the results file, among other things.

A letter from Atlas Hall & Rodriguez, L.L.P. was sent to Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office, where the county was seeking the Attorney General’s approval because the requested material from the March 4 election had been impounded. Until this matter is resolved, the records of all other elections are to remain sealed and kept for safekeeping with the Hidalgo County elections administrator, pending further orders from the court.

A letter from Abbott was issued unsealing certain parts of the requested materials. However the information regarding the 2014 primary, which is under investigation, was still to be impounded and could not be released. Schwarz was given only the combination forms. The county also sent Schwarz bills for $14.09, $59.73 and $53.53, respectively, for the cost of providing him with election results.

Schwarz later said the costs were not necessary, as the county is required to have a CD containing the audit logs with election data on it. Electronic voting system procedures require election departments to save audit logs on a CD. Copies should be made available for purchased for $17.50. Examination of the data would show if someone had tampered with the election results.

Schwarz showed the Progress Times a continuous audit log he received that he said had pages missing. Some of the precincts were also improperly grouped.

Schwarz said Dr. Duncan Buell, professor at University of South Carolina who conducted investigation of irregular elections in South Carolina, wrote a computer program that analyzed audit log files. Schwarz said that results could be had within 24 hours. To date, Schwarz has not yet received the CD.

Schwarz believes elections director Yvonne Ramon either destroyed the records or simply refused to give them to him.

Other actions dealt with at Tuesday’s meeting:

  • Under Urban County Affairs, the program plan for 2014-2015 was approved as presented. The county will receive $9,909,868 million in funding for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. That includes funding for Community Development Block Grant funds amounting to $7,581,120, the HOME ($1.7 million) and Emergency Solution Grant Solutions Program funding of $627,824, under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  • Another $932,261 will be allocated for parks and recreational facilities in Granjeno, Hidalgo, La Joya, Palmview, Weslaco and Precinct No. 4. Water and sewer improvements amounting to $1,193,206 were approved for Alamo, La Villa, San Juan, Weslaco and Precinct No. 4. Street improvements amounting to $2,742,557 were approved for Donna, Edcouch, Elsa, La Joya, Mercedes, Peñitas, Progreso, Sullivan and Precincts No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.
  • Equipment for fire stations in Alton, Mercedes and Palmview were approved at $167,822. Another $453,872 for public services was approved for use in Alamo, Donna, Edcouch, Elsa, La Joya, La Villa, Mercedes, San Juan and all four precincts. Senior services were allocated $143,068, while handicapped services in Precincts No. 1 and No. 3 received an allocation of $31,500. Allocations for transportation amounted to $90,422 to be used in Donna, Sullivan City and all four precincts.
  • An allocation for battered and abused spouses was set at $44,500, with the money to be split between the four precincts. Health Services received an allocation of $39,000 to be used in Precincts No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3. An allocation of $161,000 for abused and neglected children will be split between Mercedes, San Juan and the four precincts. Repayment of a loan for Alton at $213,000 was included.

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CoverageAreaThe Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.

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