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Published: Tue, February 14, 2017
Business | By Megan Pierce

Voter Fraud and Punishment

Voter Fraud and Punishment

Rosa Maria Ortega was convicted in Fort Worth this week, on two felony counts of illegal voting.

According to research carried out by PoliticFact in 2015, there have been 85 prosecutions in Texas for voter fraud since 2002, accounting for just 0.000001% of the 72m votes cast in the state between 2000 and 2014. She voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, and in 2014 she voted for Paxton - the man whose office would eventually prosecute her - in his successful bid for Texas AG.

Her attorney, Clark Birdsall, said on Friday that Ortega was a permanent resident who was brought to the U.S. as a baby and mistakenly thought she was eligible to vote.

Ortega was close to escaping serious punishment for the offense, and her attorney supposedly set up a plea deal with Texas' attorney general, Ken Paxton. "Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy".

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, calls voter fraud America's "dirty little secret". 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.

Ortega reportedly cast a single ballot in both elections.

"She doesn't know. She's got this [green] card that says "resident" on it, so she doesn't mark that she's not a citizen", Birdsall said.

Now, she faces eight years in prison for voter fraud in Texas.

Sam Jordan, a spokeswoman for Wilson, said the decision to prosecute had "absolutely nothing" to do with immigration. He said Ortega, who only obtained a sixth-grade education, did not intend to commit a crime. And they may subsequently use this case to argue that this is why Texas created that voter identification law that was partially struck down by a federal appeals court past year, but don't let them get too carried away.

Ortega testified that she wasn't aware of the rights granted to citizens and the rights granted to residents. Her Tarrant County registration was not approved though, because officials discovered that she was not a US citizen. "Does [Wilson] consider voter rights important?" Birdsall recalled one case where a Houston-area group was sentenced to three years in prison after they listed a hotel as their residence in order to change the outcome of a local election. "In all aspects of society, people verify their identity".

"You're more likely to get struck by lightning in Texas than to find any kind of voter fraud", Sen.

They also plan to file an appeal, though the conviction is unlikely to be overturned, he said.

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