My mother, June Brann, and I had a lot of political discussions over the years on a variety of subjects.
On one occasion—and more years back than I want to admit—we were discussing the public’s integrity and the tide of elections generally.
She said, “People will always vote their pocketbooks.”
I replied, “The people will never vote for an individual with higher moral character than that which they personally possess. The moral fiber of those elected to office reflects the moral fiber of the populace.”
South Texas Voter Fraud Series
Both observations have proven to be true over the decades as our discussions evolved. I keep waiting to be proven wrong.
But, when elections are stolen and allowed to go unchecked altogether, or laws are only applied to certain individuals in special circumstances—political token tactics—the result is the same: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Voting has progressed over the years, but it was a different paradigm for my grandfather, Joseph Kobeck, in the early 20th century.
Granddaddy brought his family to the Valley in the early 1930s. He heard about the year-round growing seasons, and the warm Valley weather here seemed far more promising than the cold weather of Tennessee. He was a simple farmer with a small amount of acreage.
When he voted back in those early years, he had to pay a poll tax for the privilege. It was also a time when votes were not by secret ballot.
Over time, he learned it wasn’t such a privilege after all. Elections were times of coercion and stolen votes, because each election the district water master would tell him how to vote. The water master could then see who had voted and how they voted—before the end of the election day.
Granddaddy decided he was done. He wasn’t going to vote. But, the water master was at his door before the end of the election and asked why he hadn’t been out to vote.
He replied, “What’s the point? I don’t get to vote the way I want.”
The water master threatened, “Go vote, or you don’t get water.”
Sound familiar to the comment by Michael Seifert in the first editorial for this series? Seifert was justifying why his outside organization needed to get people registered to vote and to the polls.
I wrote, “Seifert also asserts the need for all of this is because people are saying “¿Para qué?” about voting and they don’t see their vote as making a difference. Could he be misunderstanding their frustration?
“Is it possible their response is because they are too well acquainted with the voting abuses and the plethora of ways it occurs here?” (Progress Times, Feb. 7, 2014)
Stolen votes happen in a myriad of ways, but the core issues are why it happens and how to stop it.
It’s never been about racial discrimination. Granddaddy was Anglo. The water master was Anglo (the Gringo version of a politiquera), and the politicians were Anglo. Today, it’s Hispanic voters, politiqueras and politicians.
It’s never been about party ideologies. It’s Democrat against Democrat during the primaries. That’s the machine that runs South Texas politics.
It certainly is not about “you” the voter, the constituent, the taxpayer. You’re the pawn in the game—if you’re even a blip on their radar screen.
And, the end justifies the means—good, old-fashioned greenbacks. A bit devalued today, but money is still the root of all evil for those who love it.
It’s about Power, and it’s about Money. Money to buy elections to get more influence to propel them forward to wealth: connections, kickbacks and perks.
So, today, we don’t have to pay a poll tax to vote. Women can vote. Our ballots are secret. The voting period has been extended to help us get to the polls, which really helped me this year since I travel a lot. We’ve got early voting, absentee voting and Election Day voting.
What more could the public want to not say, “¿Para qué?” That is the core issue. There is no reason not to vote.
We just had a primary election Tuesday, March 4. There was a hotly contested race for district attorney (D.A.). Thirty-two year incumbent Rene Guerra was challenged by Ricardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez wins it in a landslide—by an almost two to one margin. Or, so it seems.
According to the unofficial results posted the day after the March 4 election, 45,646 votes were cast in the district attorney’s race. Guerra garnered 16,474 votes (36%) with Rodriguez capturing 29,172 (64%).
Those percentages sound impressive when you see them standing alone, which is what most voters focus on after an election. But, these numbers only reflect the total votes cast in one race in one primary—not the potential impact of all votes.
There were 309,902 total registered voters in Hidalgo County according to the county’s Elections Administration website the day after the election. How many more citizens are actually not registered to vote—who could do so legally?
The 45,646 votes in the D.A.’s race reflect the mind and will of only 15 percent of the total registered voters in the county. That is, of course, if all of them are legal votes. These percentages aren’t new. This is the same pattern of apathy we calculated in the elections of 2000 and earlier years. It was almost the same percentage for the statewide voting results for both the Democrat and Republican primaries.
If there are run-off races, historically even fewer voters turn out to the polls and the candidates are put into office by even smaller percentages.
Your new D.A. is now in office by the voice of a little over nine percent of the registered voters. And thus it has been in Hidalgo County for decades—the minority rules and makes the decision for the rest of the population.
Elections are easy to buy when turnouts or low—and predictable. The candidates don’t have to buy all the votes. They only have to buy the votes that put them over a predictable margin of difference. They depend on voter apathy, discouragement and resignation to the mentality, “Well, that’s the way it’s always been. We can’t change it.”
Yes you can! Vote! Get engaged in the process!
For those who say there are no worthy candidates to choose from, then change it. Find and support good people who can be trusted to do the right thing in the hard situations. They don’t have to run in a primary to get on the November ballot. Let the primary candidates burn up their money early in the year, then see how much more they can pony up for a second round of campaigning.
Get informed, gather neighbors, friends and family and candidly discuss the candidates—pros and cons. Encourage one another to register and to vote. And, outside organizers (people who cannot legally cast a vote in a local election) are definitely partisan in their agendas and are not the source to seek for fact finding. Use multiple sources or organizations historically detached from party loyalties, such as the League of Women Voters, including hearing from the candidates themselves.
Debates were held for many of the races this year, but most of the questions were politically loaded with partisan-based questions. Why? The D.A.’s position, judges, justices of the peace, constables, even the county sheriff, should only function under administering the rule of law. Only the representatives in Austin and Washington and, locally, the county judge and the commissioners, are the ones who can promote and implement policies and programs along party platform lines. It would be healthier for these offices to be taken out of the primary election cycle and placed only on the November ballot.
For those who say not voting is their voice, they’re self-righteously delusional. Not voting is no voice. They cut out their own tongue, and they’re the missing blip on the radar screen. They are the problem and do not have the ear of those who hold office. It’s much like finding favor in the king’s court. They are not even found within the outer walls of the castle grounds.
Please take elderly family members to the polls or help them with their ballots by mail. Why allow complete strangers, or even neighbors, to assist and influence loved ones? We all know our loved ones best and what their political leanings are from their past. Help them to know their choices, pros and cons, and honor them with the dignity of casting their vote their way. Why let strangers come into their homes, especially with identity theft so rampant these days, and take the chance that someone may be fishing for personal information, much less stealing their vote?
Get informed about election laws and procedures. Volunteer as poll watchers, election clerks and election judges. Learn the procedures and laws. It was disconcerting, to the say the least, when I could easily see the voter fraud and procedural bias issues after I started getting informed. I learned about the complaints, studied the Election Code and served as a poll watcher and an election judge. It opened my eyes to the blatancy of the problems in the processes—illegal and procedural. I found far more than what I was initially looking for.
They say the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.
The citizens of Hidalgo County and South Texas constantly lament the corruption entrenched here—evidenced by the string of political corruption cases since the FBI beefed up their presence. Yet, they vote “una palanca”—a straight ticket—in November. That “una palanca” mentality only empowers the corruption. Surely, there’s at least one candidate in the opposing party who can be trusted. Again, these are not policy-making positions for most local races.
The straight ticket voting is the main reason Republicans state for not giving the public a choice for the local races in November.
In the Republican primary, 6,049 or two percent of the registered voters came out to vote. For both primaries, that is 17 percent. This means 83 percent of the registered voters disenfranchised themselves by not going to the polls. They fell prey to the cancer of apathy and allow the history of a corrupt system to win.
If 83 percent of the voters are not turning out for the Democrat’s primary, why not show up in the Republican primary, even if there are no local candidates on the ballot? Now, that would really rattle the political machine in South Texas. (See note below.*)
With unpredictability at the polls, there are not enough local politiqueras—or local dollars—to impact 309,902 voters at the polls.
An informed public is an empowered public. An empowered public united for change can turn the tide.
(*Note and reminder: Corruption and voter fraud occurs in Republican-controlled counties elsewhere. So, if the shoe fits and needs to be switched to the other foot in those places, do it. We all know that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Again, I am not Republican or Democrat. I am an Independent and vote a split ticket. My perfect political world in Washington would have a 50/50 Senate and a simple House majority the opposite party of the president. They do less damage to the rest of us and have to weigh one another’s positions more closely. There are views to be gained from both sides.)
Next: Part 6, “What’s ahead?”