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Investigator determines complaint against McAllen candidate ‘held merit,’ refers case to Attorney General’s Office

The Texas Attorney General’s Office may investigate whether or not McAllen City Commission candidate Tania Ramirez illegally voted in Mission last year.

Houston-based attorney Jerad Najvar filed a complaint against Ramirez with the Mission Police Department on March 1. An investigator determined the complaint “held merit” and contacted the Texas Secretary of State’s Office on March 6.

texas ag“After reading the incident report I found the complaint held merit,” according to notes written by Mission police Inv. Tomas Garces Jr., who determined the Secretary of State’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office or the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office would handle any resulting investigation. “I submitted the complaint to the Secretary of State of Texas on March 6, 2019. This matter is going to be closed pending for further review from these agencies.”

Najvar provided the Progress Times with a copy of the police report.

The Secretary of State’s Office forwards credible complaints to investigators with the Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General’s Office didn’t respond to an inquiry about the referral.

Asked about the complaint, which may result in a criminal investigation, Ramirez responded in a text message.

“I respect that it was forwarded to the AGs Office,” wrote Tania Y. Ramirez, 30, a lawyer who worked for the District Attorney’s Office before entering private practice. “I am waiting for their response as well.”

Illegal voting — which the Texas Election Code defines as voting “in an election in which the person knows the person is not eligible to vote” — is a second-degree felony punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Questions about where, exactly, Ramirez lived during the past two years surfaced in February, when Victor De Leon, the brother of McAllen City Commission candidate Mario De Leon, filed a complaint with the City Secretary’s Office.

The ballot application Ramirez filed Jan. 29 stated that she had lived in McAllen for the past 22 months.

Hidalgo County Elections Department records, however, revealed that Ramirez voted from a Mission address last year.

“Based on cited findings, Ms. Ramirez has continued to vote in City of Mission elections, and thus affirms her residency to the elections clerks that she resides in Mission,” according to the complaint. “Therefore Tania Yanet Ramirez should be disallowed from running for the office of Commissioner in the City of McAllen’s District 4 as she does not meet the six month minimum residency requirement.”

McAllen didn’t remove Ramirez from the ballot. State law required the complaint to “conclusively establish” non-residency, a standard that is extremely difficult to meet.

Najvar, the Houston-based attorney, said he filed the complaint against Ramirez because he’s concerned the District Attorney’s Office is selectively prosecuting voter fraud cases.

Ramirez addressed the controversy March 7 during a candidate forum hosted by Futuro RGV.

“I’m transparent, I mean, that’s something that, obviously, was going to come up. It’s not like I’m hiding it or anything,” Ramirez said. “So yeah, I was registered at my parents’ house ever since I was 18. And I’ve been moving around for a very long time, continuing my education.”

Ramirez moved to San Antonio and Michigan, where she attended law school, but voted from her parents’ address in Mission.

After she returned to the Rio Grande Valley and became an attorney, Ramirez said she moved to McAllen. She had been living in McAllen for 22 months when she filed the ballot application.

“And I guess that would explain it,” Ramirez said. “But I’m transparent. I’m not denying that.”

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