Voting machine experts arrived in the Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday and began auditing machines used in the MArch 4 Democratic primary that unsuccessful candidates in that election say might have been tampered with. Three employees of Chicago-based Data Defenders set up laptops and organized some of the equipment from the previously impounded electronic voting machines at the Hidalgo County elections annex building shortly after a 9 a.m. meeting with Hidalgo County elections administration and District Attorney’s Office officials. The Data Defenders scheduled themselves to be in town collecting data for the rest of the week. Then they’ll return to their Chicago facilities for the “analysis part” of the process, said Murray Moore, an assistant district attorney overseeing a grand jury investigation into potential criminal conduct related to tampering with the machines. Moore said she hoped to have results from the analysis next month. “Think of it more like a DNA test, not like an autopsy,” she said, explaining that the process takes weeks instead of hours to complete. The data collection is open to the public, though only three media members and two members of the general public, including Sergio Muñoz Sr., sat in the observation area of the Hidalgo County elections annex to watch the process Tuesday morning.
… The analysis begins almost two months after a San Antonio attorney who is representing Regalado and two other election contestants wrote to the Hidalgo County judge and commissioners asking them to undertake an investigation into the tampering allegations.
The voting machines have been locked away since March 19 when 398th state District Court Judge Aida Salinas Flores ordered almost 563 of them impounded as evidence for an Hidalgo County grand jury. Salinas Flores subsequently ordered 241 machines released last month so that the runoff elections could be held without eliminating polling places.
Paul Vazaldua — who ran for justice of the peace in Precinct 2 Place 2, finished fifth, challenged the election results and has asked for data from the machines to hire another expert to audit the election results — welcomed Data Defenders’ presence in the Valley. “I think that this gives the election the integrity that it needs,” he said. “I have never been against any candidates; I have never been against anybody who won or lost the election. My position has always been: Let’s let the people of Hidalgo County know if we have a secure voting system.”