Poll watchers drawing new scrutiny

Voters lined up outside the San Benito Community Building to cast their vote on Tuesday.

SAN BENITO — The county’s elections officials are more closely checking poll watchers’ backgrounds after school board member Sonia Weaver was removed from a polling place following her appointment to that position.

In a memo, Cameron County Elections Administrator Remi Garza told county commissioners he’s requesting poll site supervisors to ask poll watchers whether their backgrounds could disqualify them from serving in those positions.

Garza is making the request after Weaver was removed as a poll watcher Saturday following Place 6 candidate Ramiro Moreno’s tip to the poll supervisor overseeing early voting at the city’s Community Building polling place.

“It is regrettable,” Garza said Monday.

Board member Victor Rosas, the Place 6 incumbent who faces Moreno in the Nov. 3 election, said he appointed Weaver to serve as his poll watcher hours before she was removed from the position.

“We rely on candidates to appoint qualified poll watchers,” Garza said. “Our site supervisors may not be familiar with all the elected officials or candidates. We’re grateful they brought it to our attention so we could resolve it quickly.”

Moreno said he is filing a complaint against Rosas and Weaver with the elections department.

Moreno said Rosas and Weaver should have known election laws prohibit elected officials from serving as poll watchers.

“Having a board member in there is intimidating,” he said, referring to Weaver’s presence in the polling place.

Rosas and Weaver each described her appointment as a poll watcher and her acceptance of the position as “honest mistakes.”

Rosas said he knew the law prohibited elected officials from serving as poll watchers but “forgot” when he asked Weaver to serve as his poll watcher.

“I’m the one that did it. I was supposed to know. I just forgot,” Rosas said. “That was an honest mistake.”

Weaver said she didn’t know election laws prohibited elected officials from serving as poll watchers.

“It was an honest mistake,” she said. “Since I got asked if I could help, I said ‘yes.’”

Weaver said she should have checked the law before taking the position.

“I was unaware that I couldn’t be a poll watcher because I’m a school board member,” she said. “They say I should have done my homework, and I should have done my homework.”

Weaver said she didn’t use her position to sway voters to cast ballots for her slate of candidates in the election in which 11 candidates are running in four races.

“I was there for the benefit of all the candidates,” she said. “I’m not taking sides.”