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| Crime |

Fugitive Indicted in West Dallas Voter Fraud Case

An application for a mail-in ballot was signed by "Jose Rodriguez."EXPAND
An application for a mail-in ballot was signed by "Jose Rodriguez."
Stephen Young
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A Dallas County grand jury issued its first indictment in the ongoing investigation into mail-in ballot fraud in West Dallas on Monday. The grand jury charged Miguel Hernandez, 27, with illegal voting, a second-degree felony.

Investigators in the case believe Hernandez is responsible for at least one of the tainted mail-in ballots discovered in the District 6 City Council election between Monica Alonzo and Omar Narvaez. In that race, about 700 voters ballots were turned in bearing the name Jose Rodriguez as having assisted the voter in filling out the ballot. Andy Chatham, the chief investigator on the case for the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, believes Jose Rodriguez is a pseudonym.

In late May, the DA's office got in touch with a woman on whose behalf one of the dubious ballots was cast. The woman, who is not named in court documents, told investigators that she placed a blank ballot in a white envelope inside the official carrier envelope and gave it to someone she believed was going to mail it back to the Dallas County Elections Department. She did not sign the back of the envelope, as is required.

When the ballot showed up at elections headquarters, both the voter's signature and the "assisted by" line on the form had been filled out. The woman identified Hernandez's photo from a photo lineup as the person to whom she'd given the ballot.

The Dallas County Sheriff's Office issued a warrant for Hernandez's arrest June 2. He has not been arrested. Chatham told the Observer on Monday afternoon that the Texas Attorney General's Office, which committed to helping with the investigation earlier this month, is looking for Hernandez. That's a good thing, Chatham said.

“We’ve got me and another guy. They’ve got a whole task force to look for fugitives, so it’s good that they’re helping with that,” Chatham said.

If convicted of illegal voting, Hernandez faces two to 20 years in prison.

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