A couple of weeks back, Sam mentioned that Billy MacLeod, who's running for the District 2 city council seat against incumbent Pauline Medrano, has a few problems with the coming elections. Chief among them: Votes will be cast at Esperanza "Hope" Medrano Elementary School -- which so happens to be named for the wife of civil rights leader Francisco "Pancho" Medrano and the mother of one Pauline Medrano. As MacLeod put it when we spoke this afternoon, "The whole school's one big pep rally for the Medrano family," which, as far as he's concerned, is a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Reason I called MacLeod was because this morning, he posted a note to his Facebook page in which he said he's spoken today with Autumn Payne, who deals with voting issues in the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. Writes MacLeod, who filed a formal complaint with the feds, "They will be reviewing whether Sam Houston Elementary meets the required demographics under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and then they will report back to me. They are all over it."
MacLeod's letter, sent to the Department of Justice on Tuesday, follows in full.
I've left a message for Payne to see where the issue presently stands, but City Secretary Deborah Watkins tells Unfair Park this afternoon she wasn't even aware this was "still an issue." Far as the city's concerned, Medrano Elementary will remain a polling location come May 14. But when asked what the city will do if Justice signs off on Sam Houston Elementary, she says, "I'd have to get with our attorneys and see if it's an option -- do we have any further say-so. I've never dealt with that issue at that level, so I'll follow up with our attorneys before I say yes or no" to moving locations.
Watkins does remind she's taken care of one of MacLeod's concerns: replacing the election judge for Precinct 3007, who, at the moment, is Armando Cruise, a Medrano recommendation who works for the family. Watkins says that on the council's April 27 agenda, she will recommend replacing Cruise with Yvonne Williams.
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Brylon Franklin, who oversees election judges for Dallas County's elections department, says he "can understand where he's coming from" when asked to address MacLeod's concerns. But the county, he says, has nothing to do with swapping polling places: "That has to come from the city themselves, which puts us in the middle of this. The city's driving the bus on this. If they say move it, we'll move it. And if they say don't, we won't. It's as simple as that. It's really their call."
Far as MacLeod's concerned, if Justice clears Houston, then that should be that, and he'll ask Watkins to add that item to the April 27 agenda.
If nothing else, he says, "I asked them to move everything that says Medrano from the door to the booth" at the school. "Deborah Watkins told me she would walk it and see and make a determination. I've yet to hear from her about that."
To: Chief, Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
Room 7254 - NWB
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20530
Attn: Autumn Payne
Subj: Official Polling Location Complaint, Dallas City Council District 2, Precinct 3007, Medrano Elementary School
I am a candidate for Dallas City Council in District 2 and this is a formal complaint in regards to the polling location in Dallas City Council Precinct 3007.
When you approved the polling location in March you were not properly notified that the polling place is named after my opponents late Mother who is a well known and respected Civil Rights leader. My opponent is current Dallas City Councilwoman and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, her mother is Mother Esperanza Hope Medrano, and the polling location is Medrano Elementary. This location gives my opponent an unfair advantage in this precinct.
When you were given the name of the polling location to approveyou were also not informed the that Councilwomen Medrano herself voted to re-approve the polling location and did not remove herself from the vote. Today I am formally requesting that you take the appropriate steps to move the 3007 General Election Polling location from Medrano Elementary ******* *School to Sam Houston Elementary School less than 1 mile from the existing location.
The election is May 14th and even if the Dallas City Council votes to move the location there will not be enough time to send out post cards to notify residents of the move. If the Dallas City Council decides to move the location April 27th I believe the civil rights of local voters would be violated by the lack of proper notice. It is my belief that my own civil rights will be violated and that I cannot receive a fair election in Precinct 3007 if the polling location remains at my opponents Mother's Elementary school. In a neighborhood where my opponent owns 69 rental properties within the neighborhood and the entire block across the street from the school my opponent has a distinct advantage by having the polling location remain at this location
Precinct 3007 has been singled out in published news articles as one where accusations of irregularities have occurred. No less than two independent grand jury investigations are underway about this very same subject involving members of the Medrano family. A grand jury is convened as we speak in Rockwall and Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbot has called another grand jury in McKinney to investigate whether members of this same family were involved directly in voter fraud.
You have the power to eliminate any and all appearances of impropriety and I am asking for immediate action on your part. Last Monday a grand jury handed down a felony indictment on a member of the Medrano Family for voter fraud emanating from this precinct specifically and my opponents family owns 69 rental properties within the neighborhood where the school is located. You have it within your purview to move the location prior to the Dallas City Council vote April 27th.
I am formerly requesting that you immediately take the appropriate steps to force the City of Dallas to move the polling location to Sam Houston Elementary School less than one mile away and that you make your decision prior to the April 27th hearing in front of Dallas City Council.
Please inform me of any decision as soon as it is made.
Thank you in advance and thank you for your service.
Billy MacLeod, Candidate
Dallas City Council District 2
3100 Main Street, # 68
Dallas, Texas 75226