Yesterday Bob Moore, the publisher and creator of El Paso Matters, posted an article that purports to report on El Paso’s lackluster voter turnout in the ongoing city council runoffs in Districts 1, 6 and 8. What makes Moore’s “article” questionable is that although it reports on the ongoing early voting turnout, it adds an editorial at the end that implores voters not to make the same mistake in electing the wrong candidate by not voting. News media reports are supposed to make a distinction between editorials and news reports by clearly labeling them and separating them. However, as the news media continues to evolve the lines between editorials, news reports and news analysis have become blurred.

But in the case of El Paso Matters, the article is troublesome in that it may be in violation of election laws.

Moore’s article – all 181 words of it – uses 30% (51) of the article’s words to editorialize how low-voter turnout can lead to the wrong candidate being elected to office. Moore used the case of disgraced district attorney Yvonne Rosales to argue that “Rosales defeated James Montoya by just over 1,200 votes in the runoff,” suggesting that Rosales was the wrong candidate in her election. Rosales, the first-woman district attorney in El Paso, resigned under a cloud of criminal and incompetence charges.

The fact that low voter turnout is happening is a fact – a newsworthy one. However, what makes Moore’s news report/editorial notable is how it appears to be an editorial masked as a news report. An editorial that may violate the rules that govern El Paso Matters.

Texas Is A Non-voting State

Texas has always been a state where voters are not motivated to vote, especially voters that vote for the Democrats. The Democratic Party, of which El Paso is a strong-hold in a Republican state, argues that the key for the Democrats to turn Texas blue is “increasing voter turnout.”

According to a recent Texas Monthly article, before the election last month, “democrats were still convinced that turning out nonvoters could lead the way to victory.” Texas Monthly, using voting records and consumer habits argued that 55% of Texas voters lean Democratic, while only 45% lean Republican.

Assuming the Texas Monthly Texas voter demographics are correct, the lackluster voter turnout, especially in El Paso suggests that even if the Democrats mobilize voters across the state, they will have a difficult time overcoming the Republicans in elections because the Democratic Party is unable to motivate Democrats to vote. This is true for El Paso. Last month’s election was “the lowest-turnout major city (El Paso) in Texas and a Democratic stronghold,” according to Texas Monthly.

Before the election, El Paso Democrats argued that abortion, gun control and Beto would drive El Paso voters to the polls. It didn’t happen. Even among government employees, a reliable voter demographic voter, Democratic voters just weren’t interested, even with Beto on the ballot. Texas Monthly interviewed “Mario, a 27-year-old” El Paso voter who is a government worker and a “young Latino living in O’Rourke’s reliably blue home county” about his reasons for not casting a vote. The El Paso voter told Texas Monthly that “he had no interest in casting a ballot,” because he believed “that none of the candidates offer anything and actually go through with it.”

Although Democrats argued that abortion would drive Democratic voters to register. “Fewer Texans registered” after the abortion Supreme Court ruling that did in 2018. Beto, the abortion and woman issues were not sufficient to motivate infrequent voters to engage, as the Democrats had hoped.

The Moore Editorial Problem

Editorializing in news reports is commonplace and has existed in newspaper columns for hundreds of years. What makes Moore’s editorial – masked as a news report – notable is how it uses voter apathy to encourage support for certain candidates without naming them because of legal restrictions.

Newspapers are free to openly encourage voters to vote for certain candidates through their editorials. Many newspapers endorse candidates and encourage voters to vote for them.

The problem for El Paso Matters is that it is not a newspaper, or a news outlet for that matter – notwithstanding its branding – because it is a non-profit organization restricted from endorsing or encouraging voters to vote for one candidate over another.

The rules for non-profits prohibit Bob Moore from openly endorsing a candidate or a slate of candidates.

The non-profit rules do not prohibit Moore from writing editorials about public policy and news issues. The rules only prohibit Moore from becoming involved in an election in support of a specific candidate.

What Moore did in his article was mask a story with an editorial imploring voters to come out and vote for candidates he supports without writing so. Moore carefully weaves his support of certain political candidates by writing that “in July 2020, fewer than 32,000 people voted” in the Rosales run-off election where “Rosales defeated James Montoya by just over 1,200 votes in the runoff.” Moore concluded his article with “Rosales announced her resignation last week after a turbulent two year tenure,” insinuating that if voters do not turnout in the city council election runoff they may allow another Rosales to be elected.

Rosales’ troublesome problems are unrelated to the current candidates running in the runoff elections. Who wins the runoff will have no say in the problems related to the outgoing district attorney. By adding Rosales to the article, Moore is able to editorialized that voter apathy can get the wrong candidate elected.

Low voter turnout favors those who were ahead on Election Day. In the case of incumbent Claudia Rodriguez, low voter turnout in District 6 favors her, especially when the Republican voter factor is added to the matrix, as Texas Monthly’s article found. Rodriguez has become controversial among the Democratic Party in El Paso because of her appearances on Fox News in recent days. Art Fierro has tried to capitalize on the controversy by trying to mobilize Democrats to vote for him by having Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa come to El Paso to encourage Fierro votes.

However, as an El Paso voter recently told Texas Monthly, “he had no interest in casting a ballot.”

Therein lies the problem for candidates like Art Fierro who is hoping, like Beto, to mobilize lack-luster Democrats to vote for him. Moore understands this but he cannot write editorials in support of candidates because the rules prohibit him from doing so. Instead, Moore wrote a news report about the lackluster voter turnout suggesting that if El Paso voters don’t turnout El Paso will have another elected official like Yvonne Rosales who resigns in disgrace.

Bob Moore knows that his editorializing and support for political candidates violates the non-profit rules that prohibit him from doing so, but, nonetheless, his recent byline suggests that he is looking for ways to skirt the rules. At least one complaint against El Paso Matters has been filed with the IRS and a recent report by us found that Moore likely leaked an email to the Brian Kennedy campaign, one of the candidates in the current runoff election.

Disclosure: Candidate Claudia Rodriguez contracted technical support from the author’s technology company. These services are provided separately from the publication and have no bearing on our reporting.

Martin Paredes

Reporting on public corruption, border politics, immigration and public policy in El Paso since 2000.