A Texas woman received an eight-year prison sentence after a Fort Worth jury convicted her on two felony charges of voter fraud.
Rosa Maria Ortega, a mother of four, was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine for each count under a state statute, Sec.64.012 of the Texas Election Code, that went into effect as of January 1, 2012.
Ortega, 37, a Mexican citizen who has lived in the U.S. most of her life, will likely face deportation after she completes her jail term. She reportedly voted illegally at least five times in the 2012-2014 time frame.
A legal U.S. resident, Ortega was arrested in November 2015 for alleged voter fraud.
According to the New York Times, Ortega came to Texas from Monterrey, Mexico, as an infant. Ortega’s mother was later deported. Ortega is a green card holder.
The woman’s attorney claims that “she has a learning disability and was confused about the difference between being a citizen and a legal resident, so she thought she was allowed to vote,” Dallas-Fort Worth TV station CBS 11 reported.
Her lawyer also claims that she voted for Mitt Romney in November 2012 and Attorney General Ken Paxton in the May 2014 Republican primary, although obviously, voting is by secret ballot. Ironically, Paxton’s staff assisted in the prosecution. The attorney, who plans to appeal the sentence, also suggested that the prison sentence was disproportionate to the offense and was a result of “Trump hysteria.”
Ortega herself told local media that the prison sentence was unfair.
“This case shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure, and the outcome sends a message that violators of the state’s election law will be prosecuted to the fullest. Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy,” Paxton said in a statement, NBCDFW Channel 5 detailed.
“Attorneys for the state showed the jury that she checked a box on her driver’s license form indicating she was not a citizen…the Dallas County election administrator… said in 2015 that Ortega had filled out a voter application and checked that she was a citizen,” the Dallas Morning News explained.
Evidently, she came to the attention of authorities when she moved from Dallas County to Tarrant County and tried to re-register there, the Times added.
“Told that she could not vote unless she was a citizen, she asked for another application, and returned it with a check in the box affirming citizenship. That raised questions, and law enforcement officials arrested her on fraud charges. When her application was rejected in March 2015, the trial showed, she called election officials and told them that she had previously voted in Dallas County without difficulty.”
In the voter registration process across the country, U.S. citizenship is generally on an honor system. There are court cases in which judges have blocked laws requiring registrants to prove that they are American citizens.
Reacting to the case, Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson commented that “At a minimum, statements made in applications to vote should be verified before handing out voter registration cards. In all aspects of society, people verify their identity. Why not for voting? This case shows a clear need to enforce the laws we already have.”
As alluded to above, President Trump has insisted that millions of illegal ballots cost him the popular vote in the November 2016 election in which he secured the Electoral College victory as required by the U.S. Constitution. Vice President Pence is leading an investigation into the president’s voter fraud allegations. Most media outlets have dismissed Trump’s claims, although very little on-the-ground investigative reporting has been devoted to the issue.
If Rosa Maria Ortega was in California, she NEVER would have been caught for voting illegally. https://t.co/AbTebUMEWX— Vijay Chokal-Ingam (@VijayIngam) February 12, 2017
[Featured Image by Tarrant County, Texas via AP Images]