The Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has begun an investigation into alleged voter fraud in Laredo at the request of the local district attorney.
A Laredo City Council race has been overturned due to the discovery that more votes were illegally cast than the initial margin of victory. The district attorney for Webb and Zapata Counties, Isidro Alaniz, has since asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to take over the case.
Challenger Ricardo “Richie” Rangel initially sued Daisy Campos-Rodriguez after the November election returns showed a narrow six-vote lead and inconsistencies were identified in some of the votes.
Rangel claimed in his lawsuit that “clear and convincing evidence proves that sufficient numbers of persons illegally registered to vote actually cast illegal votes at nine different addresses in District II for the purpose of influencing the outcome of the race and the outcome was incorrect.”
“Illegally claiming residency is criminal,” Rangel’s petition asserted, “and the Court should shed a bright light on this practice since doing so affects the validity of this race and should not be tolerated or condoned by turning a blind eye.”
The court found that several people admitted to illegally voting for Daisy Campos-Rodriguez, including relatives and people associated with her campaign.
District Court Judge Susan Reed ordered, “contestant Ricardo “Ritchie” Rangel Jr. is hereby declared the winner of the November 8, 2022 election for Laredo City Council District 2 and immediately entitled to take office and receive all benefits and emoluments of office.”
Campos-Rodriguez filed an appeal, however, pausing the execution of the order until the appeal can be heard.
In the meantime, Alaniz has recused himself from the investigation of the illegal voters, asking Paxton and the OAG to take over.
“The advantage of bringing in the attorney general’s office is that it helps minimize any allegations of favoritism or that it’s an unfair investigation,” Alaniz explained at a press conference, as reported by KGNS.
“These people are impartial, will come down here and look at the evidence, so [sic] interview people, look at the documents, and see if in fact there are any crimes,” the district attorney continued.
The authority of the attorney general to pursue and prosecute allegations of voter fraud has recently been changed, and a 2022 ruling by the Court of Criminal Appeals decided that Paxton did not have the ability to take such cases unless asked to by local officials.
Paxton forcefully requested the court to reconsider, claiming that the “decision misinterprets constitutional text, breaks with Supreme Court precedent, is inconsistent with its own precedent, and creates a complicated structure.”
However, the court stood by its ruling, leading some legislators to file bills that would expand the ability of the attorney general to pursue cases even when local officials do not request it (see examples here and here).
In a statement provided to The Dallas Express, Alaniz’s office explained, “Due to the fact that the case involves Laredo Police Department Officers and in order to avoid any potential conflict, the DA requested the Attorney General of Texas, Election Integrity Division to investigate the case.”
The Dallas Express reached out to the OAG for additional comment but did not receive a response before publication.