Precinct 3 commissioner files election contest

Defeated incumbent challenging March primary results

Attorneys representing both Joe Flores and Everado “Ever” Villarreal traded allegations of voting shenanigans Monday in response to an election contest the former has filed challenging the results of the March primary.

Precinct 3 Hidalgo County Commissioner Joe Flores, who lost the primary to Villarreal by 92 votes, announced via Facebook on Monday that he had filed an election contest. A total of 19,982 votes were cast in the race, with Villarreal earning 10,037 to the incumbent’s 9,945, according to the Hidalgo County Elections Department.

In his Facebook announcement, Flores alleged “illegal votes” being cast in the primary.

“As many of you know, I am a firm believer that honesty and transparency are essential in a democracy,” Flores said in a Facebook post. “After much research and investigation, it appears that many illegal votes were cast which in turn influenced the outcome of the election.”

Flores’ attorney Orlando Garcia said that the decision to bring forth the lawsuit was not one that was made lightly.

“We take the sanctity of the election very seriously, but it is because of the evidence that we’ve uncovered in less than 10 days that we brought the lawsuit,” Garcia said. “It really is not about not liking the results of the election. It’s about protecting the true will of the voters. If you have an amount of illegal voting that dwarfs the margin by which Ever Villarreal allegedly won the campaign, then you would be remiss if you did not contest the election.”

In the lawsuit, Flores’ attorney alleges that Villarreal’s campaign paid voters to vote for him. The lawsuit alleges that “thousands of voters who were not disabled were assisted illegally by Villarreal’s supporters to influence their vote for him.”

Another allegation claims that members of the ballot board were on Villarreal’s campaign payroll during the election.

Villarreal’s attorney, Javier Peña, said he hadn’t yet been served with the lawsuit and disputed the allegations made against his client’s campaign, and in doing so levied similar accusations against Flores’ campaign.

“Based on his social media post and the comments there, we think it’s frivolous,” Peña said Monday. “Ultimately, it’s going to prove to be fruitless for him. He’s got the right to file the lawsuit. I think what the lawsuit’s going to ultimately prove is that (Flores) engaged in voter fraud. He just didn’t engage in it efficiently to overcome the groundswell of support against him, and for Ever.”

Peña also said he has evidence that supports his allegations against Flores.

“Especially with the mail-in ballets and the early votes, we think he engages in massive voter fraud,” Peña said. “It just wasn’t massive enough to counter the anti-Joe vote. We have some witnesses that his people in the ballet board were throwing away mail-in ballots and the carrier envelopes for those mail-in ballots.”

Flores’ attorney denied the allegations made by Peña.

“I’m not sure of the particulars of what he’s alleging because he hasn’t filed anything yet, and I haven’t read anything that’s come from Mr. Peña’s mouth or his office, so I can’t really respond to any particulars unless I have an understanding of what he’s alleged,” Garcia said. “I do know that Mr. Peña will allege anything, so I really can’t respond to something general like that.”

In his contest, Flores is requesting that the election be declared void and a new election called, in addition to attorney’s fees.