As you know, Attorney General Greg Abbott has spent a lot of time and energy pursuing voter fraud cases, which as part of the push for voter ID legislation he claims are rampant around the state. Unfortunately for Abbott, while he's been successful at getting indictments, taking the cases to trial is another matter.
Criminal charges against two politiqueras accused of tampering with ballots in the 2005 McAllen mayoral election were dropped Tuesday, the same day their case was scheduled to go to trial.
Hidalgo County Court-at-law Judge Jaime Palacios dismissed the case against Maria Helena Belasquez and Alicia Liscano Molina at the request of prosecutors who did not feel they had enough evidence to convince a jury of wrongdoing.
The decision comes five days after a similar case was dismissed against another politiquera, Gloria Barajas.
"They were not our investigations, and I didn't feel they would stand up before a jury," Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra said.
Voter fraud cases can be notoriously difficult to prosecute, Guerra said, because the evidence is often circumstantial.
In this case, the investigation was conducted by the Texas attorney general's office but did not produce specific evidence linking the women to any crime, Guerra said.
"There's a very high standard of proof required by jurors (in voter fraud cases)," he said. "You can't just show evidence of irregularities. You have to show that the defendant was responsible."
So far, five of the nine indictments related to the McAllen elections have been dismissed, one of the defendants has pleaded guilty and the remaining three cases have bounced from court to court suffering numerous setbacks and delays.
In 2006, Attorney General Greg Abbott held up the Hidalgo County voter fraud case as an example of a successful voter fraud investigation that produced results.