Interest charge

Illegal voting charge against Mercedes woman dismissed

Illegal voting charges against a Mercedes woman were dismissed just a day after authorities arrested her, and more than three years after the incident allegedly occurred.

Bianca Gonzalez Morón, 32, of Mercedes, was arrested on an outstanding warrant shortly after entering the state’s 389th District Court on Monday morning.

Morón was there to face a single count of illegal voting stemming from a single-count indictment delivered by a grand jury on April 28.

The grand jury had found probable cause to suspect that Morón had illegally voted in a municipal election in La Villa in 2019.

“Bianca Morón, hereinafter referred to as defendant, on or about May 4 AD 2019…then voted in an election, specifically the 2019 municipal election for the town of La Villa, when the defendant knew that ‘she was not a resident (sic) of the City of Edinburgh (sic) and was not entitled to vote in this election,’ the indictment reads in part.

The reference to “the city of Edinburgh” is a typographical error in the indictment and should have correctly read “city of La Villa”.

Morón was taken into custody on Monday and then released from Hidalgo County Jail the same day.

However, the next day – Tuesday – prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the charge against her “in the interests of justice”.

State District Judge Letty Lopez dismissed the case against Morón that morning.

Morón is the niece of La Villa mayor Alma Morón, who was first elected in June 2016 when she defeated then-incumbent Hector Elizondo by just four votes.

Mayor Morón was not a candidate in the May 2019 elections. Instead, the seats of aldermen for places 1, 2 and 3, which were won by Manuel M. Hinojosa, Joe Contreras and Mario Lopez respectively, have was put to the vote.

All three aldermen were incumbents before the 2019 race. Their seats will be up for election again in May 2023.

Reached for comment on Thursday, Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez did not explain why the illegal voting charge against Bianca Morón was dismissed just a day after she appeared in court.

However, the DA indicated that there may be other defendants to come.

“On this case, I’m not going to be able to comment at this point, other than we’ve dismissed it in the interests of justice,” Rodriguez said.

“Because of these other ongoing cases, I will not comment on this yet until we decide what we are going to do with these cases,” he added a moment later.

One point Rodriguez clarified, however, was that the charge against Bianca Morón was not dismissed due to the clerical error in the indictment, which mistakenly mentioned the “city of Edinburgh” instead of the city of La Villa.

A search of county records revealed that in the May 2019 election, Bianca Morón was registered to vote at an address on Laurel Avenue in La Villa.

The address is the site of a small cottage-style house with a covered porch and a host of potted plants.

But Bianca Morón wasn’t the only person whose voter information lists that address for the May 2019 election.

Nine other people were also registered at that address and would have voted in early voting that year. Six of these people have the same surname.

Bianca Morón was charged under Sec. 64.012 of the Texas Election Code, which defines illegal voting, in part, as when a person “votes or attempts to vote in an election in which the person knows they are not eligible to vote. ..”

The law describes the crime as a Class A misdemeanor, but court records show Bianca Morón was charged with a second-degree felony.

Indeed, on December 2, 2021, a new law passed in a special session of the 87th Texas Legislature went into effect.

Known as Senate Bill 1, the law introduced new blanket restrictions on voting and voting access, including eliminating drive-thru polls, which had grown in popularity in 2020 during COVID-19 pandemic social distancing era.

However, the bill also reduced the penalty for illegal voting convictions.

Instead of being a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison, illegal voting has become a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison or of a fine.

Because Bianca Morón allegedly voted illegally in an election that took place before 2021, she was charged under the old version of the law, which carried a harsher sentence.