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Voter Fraud In Tarrant County? Democrat Espino Says No; Suppression Complaint Filed

Christopher Connelly/KERA News
Sal Espino represents District 2 in Fort Worth.

The United Hispanic Council of Tarrant County asked the U.S. Justice Department this week to investigate complaints of voter suppression among elderly Latino voters. The group alleges state investigators looking into mail-in voter fraud in the county are actually “creating an atmosphere of fear.”

“[They’ve] been primarily talking to Latino seniors, Spanish-speaking seniors,” Fort Worth council member Sal Espino, a Democrat, told KERA. “From information we gathered in the field, some of these seniors don’t want to vote anymore because they’re scared or feel like they’ve done something wrong.”

Interview Highlights: Sal Espino….

…On the mail-in ballot process:

“Under Texas law, a campaign or any individual can assist a registered voter. Folks that can vote by mail are seniors 65 and older, folks who will be out of town in early voting or Election Day, folks that are disabled and obviously folks overseas. The senior or the person requesting the ballot has to sign, but the person assisting also has to sign, print their name and address. I think the crazy allegation is that workers were out in the field forging signatures…taking the envelopes that were sent to the seniors out of the mailbox, tricking the seniors into signing and then taking the envelopes with them and that somehow those of us that were involved in these close races, I guess, sanctioned that conduct. And that is simply not true.”

…on whether this complaint aims to divert attention from voter fraud:

“I take very seriously the rights of senior citizens to vote by mail, and also those that are vulnerable. You have to understand, the Latino community, we have a lot of folks that while they may be bilingual, they're more comfortable in Spanish. We’re trying to encourage more people to vote in the democratic process. More participation in the democratic process is not mutually exclusive with ballot security. These seniors are the most consistent voters. They vote in every election, and so we have to protect their rights.”

…on Donald Trump encouraging his supporters to become poll watchers:

“Texas law and federal law allows you to have poll watchers, but they need to comply with the law. What I don't like is if folks are standing outside, yelling at people, being ugly to people. We've been blessed here in Fort Worth and Tarrant County to have relatively civil discussions even in hard-fought, close contests. But I worry with what's happening in Washington and Austin, it may infect the local level.”

Sal Espino represents District 2 on the Fort Worth City Council. 

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.