Ofelia Garcia Hunter and Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr.
Jim Wells County Correspondent
11A canvasser who apparently worked exclusively for 79th District Attorney candidate Armando Barerra admits she filled out mail-in applications incorrectly, marked ballots in support of Barrera and handled about 50 ballots.
Cindy Villarreal said she worked for $150 a week to assist in Barrera’s campaign. According to the campaign reports submitted by Barrera, Villarreal was paid a total of $750 for work during the March 4 Primary.
“I made sure that (Barrera) was marked on the ballot because I was helping him,” Villarreal said. “…I went to the mailbox (Post Office) and I threw (the ballots) in there.”
She said she also marked votes for Justice of the Peace Pct. 1 candidate Guadalupe Martinez, District Judge Richard Terrell and Sheriff Oscar Lopez, just to help them out even though she wasn’t getting paid by those candidates, she said.
Barrera refused to comment on?Villarreal’s statements, but told a San Antonio-Express News reporter: “When I hired some of these women, the first thing I told them was, ‘I’m running for D.A., and I want these mail-in applications done correctly. I do not want anything illegal.’”
Barrera, who does not face a Republican opponent in the November general election, defeated D.A. Joe Frank Garza. Garza initiated an investigation into possible voter fraud in JWC after the election.
When asked about Villarreal’s actions, Barrera asked “What did she say?” Then said, “I don’t want to know what she said.”
He then said he did not want to comment further, and walked away.
Villarreal explained in detail how she gathered applications and sent in ballots. Villarreal said family members weren’t interested in the election, but allowed her to fill out their ballots to help her as a canvasser.
“I filled it out (for them) and they told me to fill it out,” she said. “They would tell me, ‘do whatever you want.’”
Villarreal said she assisted about 50 family members and friends with their ballots.
“They just signed (the ballot) and I did everything for them,” Villarreal said. “You see my family doesn’t believe in voting and if it wasn’t for me working with the election, they don’t vote.”
As part of a series on voting fraud, the Alice Echo-News Journal through a Freedom of Information Request discovered nine mail-in applications from family members that Villarreal assisted and filled out inaccurately, although she admitted to processing many more.
Some of the mail-in applications were marked as “disability,” when none of the family members are disabled, Villarreal said. And, the address under Villarreal’s name, showing her address, was actually the address of her parents’ home.
“No, they are not disabled, they all work…I picked up about 50 or 60 just from my family,” Villarreal said of the family members she assisted with applications and ballots. “I thought that disabled meant that they worked and they weren’t able to go vote.”
The nine questionable applications were for Villarreal’s siblings and included Elena Hernandez, Reynaldo Hernandez Jr., Thomas Hernandez, Lupe Hernandez Gonzalez, Belinda Balboa, Jose Luis Hernandez, Nora Hernandez, Rosario Hernandez (sister-in-law) and Rosie Pena.
All of these applications asked that ballots be sent to Villarreal’s parents’ address on County Road 483, where the family receives mail, Villarreal said.
Villarreal said when she worked elections before, canvassers didn’t used to have to sign their name on the mail-in application, saying that was not the case the last time she was a canvasser four years ago.
“Now they have more information than before, so I got confused,” she said. “The only reason why I worked was because (my one-year-old daughter) is having surgery and I needed the money.”