An attorney filed a complaint against McAllen City Commission candidate Tania Ramirez on Friday, accusing her of illegal voting — a second-degree felony.
Houston-based attorney Jerad Najvar filed the complaint with the Mission Police Department on Friday morning. Najvar provided the police with a copy of Ramirez’s ballot application and information about her voting history.
Ramirez submitted her ballot application on Jan. 29, which stated that she had lived in McAllen for the past 22 months. Hidalgo County Elections Department records, though, reveal that Ramirez voted in Mission last year.
“Clearly there’s probable cause that would support an arrest or an investigation,” said Najvar, an expert on election and campaign finance law.
Ramirez voted with a Mission address in the March 2018 Democratic Party primary, the May 2018 Mission City Council election, the June 2018 Mission City Council runoff election and the November 2018 general election.
“She says under penalty of perjury that she’s lived, essentially since March or April 2017, in McAllen,” Najvar said, referencing the ballot application. “So if you accept her statement under oath, then she wasn’t eligible to vote in those Mission elections.”
Ramirez couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
During an interview on Feb. 18, however, Ramirez said she lived in McAllen for the past 22 months but didn’t update her voter registration.
“I never changed it,” Ramirez said. “I think that was just a procrastination issue, I guess. And that’s the reason for it.”
Questions about her residency surfaced last month.
Victor De Leon — the brother of former City Commission candidate Mario De Leon, who withdrew from the ballot — filed a complaint with the McAllen City Secretary’s Office.
After reviewing the complaint, City Secretary Perla Lara and City Attorney Kevin Pagan determined the voter records didn’t “conclusively establish” residency.
“Because the city secretary (1) is not permitted to conduct an independent investigation or to make fact-findings, (2) is limited to considering the face of the application and other public documents that conclusively establish ineligibility, and (3) Texas courts have expressly held that merely voting outside the jurisdiction does not conclusively establish non-residency, I do not believe she was permitted to find that the documents presented to her conclusively established ineligibility. As Ms. Lara said in her letter, her determination was limited to what she could determine under the very strict standards set out in the statute and was not a finding of what a court, which would not be bound by the same constraints, might find if the issue were presented to it,” Pagan wrote to Victor De Leon, denying his request to remove Ramirez from the ballot.
Navjar said he filed the complaint because he’s concerned Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez is selectively prosecuting voter fraud cases, ignoring complaints against his supporters and aggressively investigating complaints against his opponents.
Supporters of Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina filed about 20 voter fraud complaints against people aligned with Rodriguez, but he doesn’t appear to be investigating them, Najvar said. Meanwhile, the District Attorney’s Office is aggressively investigating people who supported Molina.
“Their reaction to this complaint is going to indicate whether he’s seriously pursuing voter fraud,” Najvar said.
After she graduated from law school, Ramirez worked for the District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor. Najvar said he believes that Rodriguez, her former boss, supports Ramirez for City Commission.
“I’m not going to respond to any of his comments. I’m not going to be playing that game,” Rodriguez said. “He can assume what he wants and he can say what he wants.”
Najvar said the police report may be available next week.
Check back for updates.