Concern over voting process for sheriff nomination

In just a few days the Democratic Party will select its nominee for Hidalgo County Sheriff.

Action 4 News has been told that some precinct chairs are concerned with how the votes will be cast if there is external pressure on the chairs.

We sat down with the party TMs Process Committee Chairman Mario Garcia, who addressed the rules of the Democratic Party that regulates different methods to vote.

"There are no secret ballots under the party rules; the party will allow you to have a written ballot and/or roll call. I think the only way to give some degree of confidence and privacy to the precinct chairs, especially those most vulnerable amongst us, is to have a written ballot-end of story," stated Precinct Chair Patrick Eronini

Eronini said it's because he's concerned.

He TMs heard from other chairs that they've been pressured to vote for a specific candidate.

Mario Garcia, a precinct chair and the process committee chairman, said it's natural to have these sort of allegations especially if there are precinct chairs who are also county employees.

"It creates an environment susceptible to that type of activity, whether it TMs going on [or] it TMs not going on-that TMs for the eye of the beholder," said Garcia.

According to the 2014 Democratic Party Rules there are four different voting methods: voice vote, by (standing) division of the house, by signed written ballot, or by roll call vote.

Garcia told Action 4 News News that as it currently stands, there will be a combination of a written ballot and a roll call.

In other words, they will call precinct 56, and in my case, I will have to say/voice and let the public know exactly who I voted for," explained Garcia.

"A combination is going to jeopardize the process. It TMs going to threaten the integrity of the process and it TMs going to undermine the ability of people to vote freely," said a concerned Eronini.

Fortunately, Garcia said there is still time if changes need to be made.

"It is subject to change. We've already changed one thing such as venue and so there's a precedent set already," said Garcia.

He told Action 4 News that changes to the voting process could be made as late as Saturday, the day of the nomination. All it takes is one precinct chair to make the suggestion and then a vote will be held.

We asked Garcia what would be the best way to secure a fair voting process due to recent allegations of intimidation.

"External pressure is there, whether we like it or not--the external pressure is in some cases an extreme pressure. However, this process has worked for many, many years," replied Garcia.

Garcia said whether the allegations are true or not, he's glad that the media has been diligently following the story because it helps to raise awareness in the public. And if the allegations are true, he hopes the media attention will put an end to the unnecessary pressure on the chairs.

Both Eronini and Garcia agree that they the voting process should be fair and transparent.

UTPA will be hosting a public forum for the Democratic Sheriff candidates Wednesday at 3 p.m.

The nomination will take place at the Doctor's Hospital at Renaissance Event Center at 9 a.m. on Saturday.