City of Pharr restricts electioneering at the Jose Pepe Center, breaking Texas law

Local News

PHARR, Texas (KVEO) — Early voting began on Tuesday and with it came conflicts with electioneering.   

Electioneering is a common activity around election time that involves the distribution of information about candidates on the ballot.  

The City of Pharr has an ordinance banning electioneering on the property of polling places even though Texas law allows it up to 100 feet from the entrance. 

“Just talking to them—to the people would help too, but that’s not something that we are able to do,” said Joyce Llamas an electioneer and precinct 35 chair. 

What this electioneer is referring to is a Pharr city ordinance that was passed two weeks ago stating that electioneers are not allowed to hand out or speak with any voters this year.   

When we spoke with the City of Pharr’s attorney’s office, they said this ordinance was for voter safety, including protecting them from COVID-19.   

“Yesterday was the first day of early voting we are very excited and wanted to encourage people to come out and vote,” said electioneer volunteer Daniela Zuniga. “The city of Pharr passed an ordinance cautioning that electioneering wasn’t going to be allowed in the city of Pharr.” 

Zuniga says that she felt the vote was being suppressed since the ordinance only indicated the restriction of electioneering. 

“I felt yesterday that our vote was being suppressed by what was happening in the city of Pharr.” 

They were asked to move their tents to the edge of the sidewalk which Zuniga felt jeopardized their safety, and told they could not have any of their cars in the parking lot. 

This conflicts with the Texas state law allowing all electioneering activity as long as it is 100 feet from the entrance to a polling site. 

The Texas Secretary of state told Raul Martinez the city’s ordinance is illegal. 

“And she told me that the way the state law reads is that as long as we don’t politic within 100 feet of the entrance of the building,” said volunteer electioneer Martinez. “Where the machines are located—that that was the state law. Anything beyond that would be illegal.” 

We reached out to the mayor’s secratary and have not received a response. 

This is a developing story with more updates coming soon.

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