Voter fraud case takes a new twist
Guillermo X. Garcia
San Antonio Express-News
September 12, 2007
Officials involved in a joint federal-state probe say that some of the dozens of people under investigation in a months-long Bexar County voter fraud case may be charged with both state and federal crimes.
Federal investigators are to meet this week with local prosecutors to coordinate the cases being developed and determine who'll face state felony charges for voting illegally and who will be deported for violating federal immigration law.
No arrests have yet been made.
Authorities said they are anticipating charging some of the undocumented people alleged to have voted in Bexar County with felony violation of state law before they are turned over to immigration agents and likely deported.
As the federal portion of the investigation begun in late May winds down, Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed will determine how she'll proceed in the case of the 41 people who allegedly voted, some repeatedly, despite being non-citizens.
Reed's office will determine who will be charged with felony offenses after a meeting between Homeland Security Department investigators from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Adriana Biggs, Reed's white-collar crime division chief.
“The joint federal-state strategy will likely be that (Bexar County) pursues felony voter fraud charges, while the parallel federal investigation will focus on violations related to identity theft, re-entry after deportation and other violations of (federal) immigration law,” ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said Tuesday.
She said it appears likely that some of the investigation's targets will be prosecuted in state court on voter fraud charges before facing an immigration law judge in deportation proceedings.
“They have not shown me what the results of their investigation reveals,” Biggs said, referring to ICE's ongoing probe. “Once we have determined who is a citizen and who is not, then we'll proceed with looking at filing state charges.”
The investigation was launched after Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen apparently discovered that undocumented immigrants had voted, some several times, in more than a dozen local, state and federal elections between 2001 and early 2007.
She said it didn't appear the illegal voting influenced an election's outcome.
Callanen earlier this year was updating the county's list of eligible voters when she discovered some 330 people who should not have been on the rolls because they weren't citizens.
Callanen compiled the list of names after she determined that they had stated on juror summons cards that they should be excused because they weren't citizens.
Pruneda said her agency will process those found to be illegally in the country for deportation hearings, an administrative proceeding.
Saying the probe was ongoing, Pruneda would not comment on substantive issues in the investigation, such as how many people have been interviewed by federal agents or when the federal portion of the investigation would end.
“We are looking at a big pie,” Biggs said. “We are going to be carving out state offenses and determining how to proceed, while the feds will carve out their portion of the pie related to immigration law.”
Biggs said the DA's investigators also would seek to determine whether those people who said on the jury summons that they were not U.S. citizens were just seeking to duck jury duty. Citizens who attempt to mislead authorities by claiming they are non-citizens could face charges of lying on a government document, she said.