Alice City Council candidate's eligibility questioned: Here's what records show

Melissa Cantu Trevino
Alice Echo News Journal
Robert Regino's eligibility questioned in city council race for place 1.

Deadline to file for a place on the May 1st election has come and gone in the City of Alice, but approximately two months after the filing date, one Alice City Council candidate's eligibility is in question.

Robert Roel Regino is one of the candidates running for Alice City Council place 1. He filed his application with City Clerk Odilia Rodriguez. On Feb. 12, Regino stood before the city clerk and took an oath. Part of the oath reads:

"I further swear that the foregoing statements included in my application are in all things true and correct."

Rodriguez took Regino's application at face value. No proof of identification, no copy of driver's license or voter identification card, no proof of residency was submitted or required to be filed. 

"People are making allegations. We don't know if they're true or not," City Manager Michael Esparza said.  "We're determining the steps are pretty simple. Our city clerk accepts the application, reads the oath, verifies the voter information and they're done. It has happened in the past, where somebody has filed and they live outside the city limits and she'll call them to let them know they don't qualify." 

WHAT RECORDS SHOW

A review of Regino's application lists his permanent address as 1425 South Reynolds in Alice where he stated he has lived for five years. The address on Regino's voter registration matches the address on the application. 

However, Regino's father filed an affidavit and sent it to the City of Alice and the Jim Wells County elections administrator, that contradicts the address Regino claims. 

"I, Zaragosa Regino, of Alice, in Jim Wells, make oath and say that: 1) I have owned and resided of the home located at 1425 South Reynolds Street in Alice, Texas for over 20 years. 2) My son, Robert Roel Regino, is not currently nor has been a resident of this address(1425 S. Reynolds St.) for over 15 years."

On Aug. 31, 2020, Regino went on Facebook live with his talk show known as "Talking South Texas." At marker 15:40 of the live feed, Regino  states "Yes, I'm a coyote, but I live in San Diego."

That would contradict the statement on residency he made on his application to run for city council.

WHAT DOES THE LAW REQUIRE?

The Alice City Charter also states that a candidate must live within the city limits for 12 months.

Due to the statement Regino made about living in San Diego, Regino's name was ran through the Duval County Election Voters database as well as the state's database. Officials with the Duval County Election Voters Office said, Regino was not found as a voter in the county nor the state before his registration in February in Jim Wells County. 

"The city clerk, as the authority with whom the application is filed, must review the application to determine whether it complies with the requirements as to for, content, and procedure. (Texas Election Code 141.032) The city clerk does not just accept the applications and 'stamp' them received, she must specifically review the contents to be certain they conform to the requirements for candidacy. This includes all contents including facts concerning residency. The review must occur, in most circumstances , within five days of the filing of the application ( Texas Election Code 141.032)," City Attorney John Lemon said in a letter to the city manager on March 8.

"According to the (Texas) Attorney General's legal department, we do the oath and we go by the document," Rodriguez said. "I don't have any authority to investigate. I just go by the document. The deadline to disqualify someone passed; it was on (February) 19th. After that he stays on the ballot."

All that occurred to verify Regino's eligibility was a phone call to Jim Wells County Elections Administration Office where "the city clerk confirmed his status as a registered voter on February 12."

According to Rodriguez, she verified Regino's voter status "over the telephone with Julio at the Election Administrator's Office and a voter registration number was provided."

JWC Elections Administrator Richard Guerra said that he does ask for an identification card at the time of voter registration, but it is optional.

Lemon said there has been no official record shown to Rodriguez that shows Regino's application is false or that he doesn't meet the requirements of filing for office in the CIty of Alice.

Despite the verification from the elections administration to the city about Regino's registration status. Lemon's letter to Esparza said, "Several days later (after the expiration of the filing deadline) the Election Administration's Office contacted the Alice City Clerk's Office requesting assistance in communicating with Mr. Regino because his voter registration form lacked some information...Such irregularities may cause a candidate's in eligibility and while these issues may be relevant to Mr. Regino's status as a 'qualified voter,' they are matters of concern for the voter registrar...Any determination of qualifications to be a voter registration application, must come through the Jim Wells County Election Administrator's Office or the Texas Secretary of State. This is especially true given the fact that the Election Administrator's Office has already confirmed Mr. Regino as a registered voter to the City Clerk."

Alice's city charter states that candidates must be a qualified/registered voter. Texas Election Code 11.002 defines a qualified voter as a person who is 18 or older, a United States citizen, has not been determined by a judicial judgement of a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be totally or mentally incapacitated, has not been convicted of a felony us fully discharged of sentence or pardoned, a resident of the state and a registered voter.

WHAT VOTER RECORDS SHOW

Texas Secretary of State (SOS) confirmed that Regino registered as a "new voter" on Feb. 11, the day before the filing deadline, at 3:35 p.m. in Jim Wells County, but his registration was not effective until March 13. 

House Bill 484 amends Texas Election Code Section 141.001 to provide a new general rule that a candidate must be a registered voter of the territory elected from as of the filing deadline. The Alice City Charter follows the election code that requires the same qualification. 

JWC Elections Administrator Richard Guerra said that he spoke with the Texas SOS and has been told that he does not have a role to disqualify an Alice City Council candidate.

According to the Texas SOS, the Election Code definition of a registered voter is one whose registration is effective. Therefore, the registration must be effective by the filing deadline for a place on the ballot. The registration becomes effective on the 30th day after the date the application is submitted to the registrar.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Texas SOS stated that the City of Alice has filing authority meaning the city would decide who is a candidate as eligible or ineligible to be on the ballot. If the candidate has not been declared ineligible before the registration is active than it's too late, but if he were to have been registered now and therefore eligible he would be able to hold office.

"There are things (the city clerk) can do with what is called an administrative removal and things that she can't do in an administrative removal. Specifically by statue she is disallowed from doing an administrative removal about residency. That takes a judicial determination. If there are complaints about any candidates residency somebody has got to take him to court and prove, in fact, that (the candidate in question ) is in fact (not) a resident," Lemon said. An administrative removal could occur all the way up to the first (day of) early voting. A judicial determination takes longer, ultimately, the candidate can be disqualified after the fact based upon an appropriate filed contest prior to (early voting)." 

Early voting starts on April 19 and ends on April 27. 

According to Texas Election Code Section 145.003, if a candidate is declared ineligible, the authority making the declaration shall promptly give written notice of the declaration of ineligibility to the candidate, and the disqualified candidates votes would go to the opponent declaring the opponent the winner.

Regino did not give official comment as of print deadline at 4 p.m. Thursday. 

Check for updates on the website at www.alicetx.com