Attorney General Ken Paxton recently announced the arrest of Marcela Gutierrez following his office’s investigation of a voter assistance fraud scheme that took place during the 2016 city of Hidalgo runoff election.
Gutierrez, a non-citizen, is charged with illegal voting for marking a ballot without a voter’s consent, a second-degree felony. She led the voter to believe she was demonstrating use of a voting machine, but instead cast votes on the voter’s ballot for a slate of candidates Gutierrez had been paid to support.
Illegal voting is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Gutierrez also faces 10 misdemeanor counts of unlawfully assisting a voter.
Two of her fellow campaign workers are implicated in the same voter fraud scheme. Sylvia Arjona and Sara Ornelas are charged with a total of seven counts of unlawfully assisting a voter, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Attorney General Paxton’s office referred 18 separately filed cases against the three individuals for prosecution to the Public Integrity Unit of the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office and will continue to provide support and assistance to District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez.
“These cases highlight the unfortunate widespread abuse of elder and disabled voters in our state,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Texas law provides accommodations to assist those who cannot vote their own ballots, but those provisions are being abused to deprive vulnerable Texans of their voice in government. Anyone who attempts to exploit the voter assistance process to steal votes will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Last month, Attorney General Paxton’s office arrested five people in its ongoing investigation into an organized illegal voting scheme in the 2017 city of Edinburg election. The attorney general’s office continues to encourage individuals with information about voter fraud to come forward and cooperate before additional arrests are made.
Texas voters have the right to cast their ballots free from interference and intimidation. It is unlawful for anyone to provide assistance to a voter who is ineligible for help or hasn’t requested it. It’s also against the law for anyone assisting a voter with a ballot to suggest how to vote, or to cast a vote without the voter’s consent.