Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr. and Ofelia Garcia Hunter
Alice Echo-News Journal
Alice resident Freddie M. Chavarria was surprised to learn he submitted three mail-in ballot applications for the March 4 Primary.
That’s because he didn’t, and his signature was forged on at least one of the applications.
Chavarria is one of 146 local residents who had duplicate mail-in ballot requests submitted, the Alice Echo-News Journal learned in its ongoing investigation into alleged voter fraud in the Primary.
A listing of duplicate applications was received through a Freedom of Information request by the Alice Echo-News Journal from the JWC?Elections Administrator’s office, and a review of those duplicates showed eight individuals had more than one duplicate application made out in their name.
Other individuals who had more than one duplicate included local resident Sylvia Mallett, who had no cause to vote by mail because she is neither disabled or over the age of 65, and Abelino Garza Jr., who is also neither over the age of 65 nor disabled.
Both Mallett and Garza were listed as disabled on the mail-in applications.
Mallett confirms she did sign three different applications when they were presented to her by a canvasser, but said she did not fill in the remainder of the application and never mailed her ballot as someone was supposed to pick it up.
Garza said he signed one application only, so the signatures on the remaining two duplicate applications were forged. His address was also incorrect on two of the applications.
Three applications were submitted in Chavarria’s name.
Chavarria said he did not turn in an application for himself, although he said he did sign an application form.
After comparing the signatures on the three applications presented to him, Chavarria said, “It’s just one of them, the other ones don’t match.”
Chavarria produced his voter registration card to compare signatures. The second and third application signatures did not match his registration card.
All three applications were marked disabled, which is correct, Chavarria said as he receives SSI checks for his disability.
Chavarria said his ballot was sent to his aunt’s house at 712 E. Fourth Street. Jesusa P. Garcia is the sister of Chavarria’s mother, Guadalupe Mungia Chavarria.
Chavarria’s mother picked up the ballot from her sister’s house and brought it to Freddie M. Chavarria to fill out, he said. He did not mail the ballot off himself.
Chavarria’s mother said she did sign the third ballot by mail application in her son’s name.
She said she has signed for Chavarria before for his checks, which she said she is allowed to by law.
She also wrote in her sister’s address, the Fourth Street location, on the application. Chavarria’s mother did not sign a section of the application marked for those who assist the applicant, as specified in the law.
The application Chavarria did sign himself, though, was filled out by another individual, he said. The box reserved for the assistant to sign was also left blank.
The second mail-in application, which neither Chavarria or his mother recognized, was signed “Fred Chavarria.” The name in print at the top of the application says Freddie Chavarria, and the information supplied on the application matched his personal information. No assistant signed the application.
“This one is his writing…but this one isn’t, he doesn’t sign as Fred,” Guadalupe Chavarria said. “Sometimes he doesn’t know, so I help him out…I know my handwriting.”
Guadalupe Chavarria said her mail-in ballot requests have been picked up before by her sister-in-law, Severa Garcia, who worked as a canvasser for District Attorney Joe Frank Garza and District Judge Richard Terrell.
Then, Guadalupe Chavarria’s daughter-in-law. Noelia Garcia, who worked under her mother Ignacia Castillo, picked up her ballot to be mailed off.
According to the campaign reports, Castillo campagined for Garza, Terrell and District Attorney-elect Armando Barrera. Garcia is not listed on any campaign finance report.
“We just fill it out and they picked it up, “ Guadalupe Chavarria said. “I don’t know what happens thereafter.”
Freddie Chavarria did say he was paid by Barrera $50 for carrying signs for him at the courthouse for two consecutive weeks.
Mallett also had three ballot by mail applications in her name. Her first visitor was a woman named Licha Salinas, who Mallett said asked her to sign an application, but never returned to pick up the ballot for the March 4 Primary.
Mallett says she is also waiting for her to pick up the run-off ballot.
“Licha came by, and I had signed a white card, she never came back to collect this,” Mallett said, holding up the green Primary run-off ballot. “And this is the second one that came in the mail.”
The first she received was the Primary election ballot. Mallett said Salinas was supposed to pick up the ballot, but didn’t.
“I said to myself she should be coming, but I waited and waited, but she never did,” Mallett said.
Mallett said all three applications had her signature, and she received all of the applications from Salinas. The signatures, though, do look different.
“That’s how I write when I”m in a hurry,” Mallett said of the three signatures.
The third application for Mallett references 507 S. Adams as Mallett’s mailing address. Mallett said the S. Adams Street address is her mom’s address. Mallett said a woman named Noemi Sanchez was a canvasser who went by her mother’s house.
Sanchez’s daughter, Vanessa, is Mallett’s sister-in-law, she said.
Salinas nor the Sanchezes could be located for this interview. Mallett said she didn’t know which candidates Salinas or Sanchez were working for, and neither name appears on any of the canvassing reports.
The three applications are not marked as having had any assistance, despite the fact that Mallet said she only signed the applications and did not fill them out. There are no signatures on any of the applications indicating she was assisted.
Additionally, all three applications list Mallett as being disabled, which she is not as she works as a care provider.
“I work every day, except on weekends, sometimes I get off. But I work every day,” Mallett said.
She laughed when she saw that her applications were marked for her as having a disability.
“I would never be signing that, uh-uh,” Mallett said.
She said she put her name on the application, but that the rest was filled out for her by someone else.
Mallett said the women who signed her up never explained the process of ballot by mail to her.
Mallett is still holding on to her run-off ballot, waiting to see if someone will come to pick that one up. Since no one picked up her Primary ballot, Mallett did not vote in the election. “Well I’ll mail it,” Mallett said of the run-off ballot. “But I forgot the stamp at the store.”
Esperanza Street saw a lot of political activity in the weeks leading up to the election, Garza said.
He had three ballot by mail applications in his name. Two of them were made out to his address from three years ago on 1511 Corina in Rancho Alegre. Those were marked for Precinct 22.
Garza said he has not lived in that area for almost three years. A trailer sits at that location with broken windows and grass overgrown in the yard. Neighbors across the street said the Garzas had not lived at that location for several years.
Garza said he only signed the first application, when it was presented to him at his house by canvasser Diana Castillo, who according to campaign finance reports was paid by Barrera.
“That’s my signature,” Garza said, pointing to the first application. “That is not mine and that one is not either. I can show you my ID, and it will show you that my signature is just like that one. These other two, those are not my signatures.”
As far as the wrong addresses on the applications, Garza had no explanation.
“I don’t know why they put that there. I’ve been living on Esperanza for close to three years. We used to live on Corina. They might have had it on record already,” Garza said.
All three applications listed Garza as disabled. He said he worked for Saldivar, and is not disabled.
“They told me to sign my name… I don’t even write like this,” he said pointing to the other information on the applications.
“That’s all she said I needed to do was just sign it. She never told me about receiving papers or nothing. But I have always done mine with the lady in the green truck. Her’s hadn’t gotten here that time, so I filled out that one that came,” he said.
The lady in the green truck, Garza said, is a woman named Sylvia Bueno, who had come by Garza’s house and his parents’ residence several times this election season. Garza said she constantly asked for their ballots – his, his wife Amanda’s and Garza’s father, Abelino Garza Sr.
Bueno is not listed on any campaign finance report on file for the March 4 Primary.
Garza said after he signed his name on the application, Diana Castillo took the form with her. Garza said after the mail-in ballot came in he misplaced it and was unable to give it to Bueno when she came by to pick it up.
She would wait outside the home while he searched for it inside, family members said. Amanda Garza, whose application also indicated she is disabled when she isn’t, said Bueno did pick up her ballot. She only signed her application as well, and did not fill it out.
Eloisa Garza Joslin, Garza’s sister, said Bueno had been coming around for years to Esperanza Street to pick up ballots.
“She never mentioned who she was working for,” Joslin said.”I think that’s not fair for the people who are out here. If somebody else picks them up, they don’t know if they’ll switch them out.”
Garza’s mother said she threw her and her husband’s mail-in ballots away, and she refused to sign anything from Castillo or Bueno. Hilda Garza said she was mad because Bueno kept coming by the house for the ballots.
“I was sick and tired of her (expletive deleted). Coming over here every (expletive deleted) day,” Hilda Garza said. “If I want to go vote, I’ll go personally and go into that building and vote for whoever in the hell I want. You’re not going to tell me who to vote for,” Garza said she told Bueno.
Garza said they signed up her husband while he was siting outside the house by himself.
A ballot by mail application was found in Abelino Garza Sr.’s name, but it was filled out by someone other than Garza.
His signature is very distinctive and nearly illegible, compared to the writing on the application. Hilda Garza spoke to her husband over the phone and he confirmed he did sign an application, and that the form, with his signature only, was taken away by Bueno afterward. There was no assistant signatures on any of the applications turned in for the Garza family.
Castillo and Bueno could not be located for comment for this interview.