Prosecutors have issued their first arrest warrant in the Dallas County voter fraud case that roiled the May municipal elections in West Dallas and Grand Prairie, causing 700 suspicious mail-in ballots to be sequestered.
Miguel Hernandez, 27, of Dallas, is wanted on a charge of illegal voting, a third-degree felony. He is accused of visiting a woman around April 10 and collecting her blank absentee ballot, then filling it out and forging her signature on it before mailing it to the county, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Authorities say they plan to make more arrests in the case. Last month, Assistant District Attorney Andy Chatham and Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole named two persons of interest in the investigation, neither of whom was Hernandez.
Prosecutor Mike Snipes, a former judge and federal attorney, said Friday afternoon that he couldn’t say too much about the case, as it’s ongoing.
But he did say his office had been contacted by a woman from West Dallas who “knew she’d been duped into sending out an improper ballot” and contacted the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. She was shown a lineup and identified Hernandez.
Snipes said prosecutors were “not surprised” when she pointed at him.
Investigators declined to say whether they suspect Hernandez or any others are linked to any particular candidate. But they are expecting more arrests.
“Nothing in the next week,” Snipes said.
“But in the next month? Probably.
We’re happy we’ve got one warrant, the investigation’s proceeding, and we think we’re getting close.”
During the weeks leading up to the elections, dozens of senior citizens in West Dallas and Grand Prairie filed complaints saying they had received mail-in ballots that they had not requested. Some of them had also been told their mail-in ballot applications said they had been assisted by a “Jose Rodriguez,” a man they didn’t know.
At the district attorney’s request, a judge ordered the sequestration of 700 ballots that were linked to “Jose Rodriguez,” which authorities believed to be a fake name.
According to the affidavit, a voter who had complained that her application listed “Jose Rodriguez” told investigators that she had placed a blank ballot in a white envelope and put that inside a “carrier envelope,” before giving it to the man who said he would “ostensibly” give it to the elections department.
When she handed her ballot over, she hadn’t signed her voter signature or that anyone had assisted her, she told investigators. But authorities showed her the one that the elections office had received, which showed both lines signed.
Chatham, the prosecutor leading the investigation, said he will ask a judge to sequester all mail-in ballots for the June 10 runoff so that investigators can analyze them.
If convicted, Hernandez faces 2 to 10 years in prison.
This isn’t Hernandez’s first run-in with the law. He was convicted of two 2012 cases for possession of drugs and a 2013 case for possession of cocaine, court records show.
Hernandez surfaced as a person of interest in the investigation after Pat Stephens, 67, who lives in the Westmoreland Heights neighborhood, received a visit from a man asking for her ballot. Suspicious, she demanded to see his ID. He handed over his driver’s license, and she snapped a photo on her cell phone. The name, date of birth and address on the license match that of Hernandez as listed on the arrest warrant.
“That makes me feel real good,” Stephens said Friday, after hearing of the arrest warrant issued for Hernandez.
“Somebody that would be defrauding senior citizens like that really needs to be locked up.”
Both candidates in the West Dallas District 6 runoff for city council denied knowing Hernandez or employing him.
Council member Monica Alonzo said she was happy to hear of movement on the case.
“It’s important for us to be able to get information and see that justice is working,” she said.
“People will feel comfortable that we, as elected officials, do respond to their needs.”
Her opponent, Omar Narvaez, said he’d never heard of Hernandez.
“I hope this person is caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Narvaez said.