Mexican Woman Sentenced to Eight Years in Jail for Voting in Texas Illegally

Mexican Woman Sentenced to Eight Years in Jail for Voting in Texas Illegally
Illustration by Monica Fuentes

A Mexican woman in Texas has been sentenced to jail for voting illegally.

A day after Rosa Maria Ortega was convicted of falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen and voting five times between 2004 and 2014, a Tarrant County jury on Thursday sentenced her to eight years in jail and levied a $5,000 fine.

Ortega, 37, is a Mexican national who has lived around Dallas since she was 15, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. During her trial, she testified that her illegal voting was an honest mistake. She said she was unclear on the difference between being a legal resident and being a citizen when it came to voting, but Ortega had thought state officials would tell her when she registered if she wasn't supposed to be in the voting pool.

The Tarrant County voter registration form states that people who are not citizens should not sign up to vote, but that's what Ortega did. "If I knew, everything would have been done the correct way," Ortega said in court, according to the Star-Telegram. "All my life I was taught I was a U.S. citizen."

Tarrant County prosecutors worked with lawyers from state Attorney General Ken Paxton's office on the case. And then Paxton, eager these days to have his name tied to something that isn't his own current legal troubles, crowed about the case in a release. "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," Paxton said. "Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy."

That's a nice thought — we can't honestly find anything to argue with about it — but it does seem worth noting that maybe Texas actually does a pretty good job of safeguarding the integrity of our elections.

Of course, some will now point to Ortega's case as evidence, the first termite indication that the whole house is infested with non-citizen voters. And they may subsequently use this case to argue this is why Texas created that voter identification law that was partially struck down by a federal appeals court last year, but don't let them get too carried away.

After all, as Governor Greg Abbott himself pointed out in 2013 — and as Politifact recently noted — between 2002 and 2012, when he was the attorney general, there were only 18 voter fraud convictions even though Texans cast millions of ballots during that period.
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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray