Rosa Maria Ortega’s conviction on voter fraud in 2017 for casting ballots in five elections in Texas for Republican candidates was upheld by an appeals court. The single mother of four was sentenced at trial to eight years in prison, and immigration officials will likely deport her at the end of her prison term, due to the felony conviction. She’s been free on bond since the trial as the case was on appeal.
Ortega’s family brought her to the U.S. as a baby and she received a green card as a child, reports the Star-Telegram. But she never became a U.S. citizen. Ortega remains a citizen of Mexico. News organizations have not been able to reach Ortega, her appeals attorney, or family members.
The appeals court’s decision, issued Nov. 21, was terse, finding no errors in Ortega’s trial. On Nov. 27, the office of Texas attorney general Ken Paxton issued a news release that said the state of Texas had offered Ortega a plea bargain with the minimum statutory penalties, in which she would serve no time in prison and face just two years of community supervision. Ortega opted for a jury trial, was found guilty, and received the extended sentence. Her trial attorney said the penalties were excessive.
Throughout the legal process, Ortega maintained that she did not set out to commit fraud but, instead, misunderstood her voting eligibility.
In 2002, Ortega registered to vote in Dallas County, Texas, and voted in four elections there. When she moved to a different county, she changed her registration and noted she was not a U.S. citizen. Prosecutors said in the trial she was informed in writing by the elections office she was ineligible to vote, but she re-filed her registration five months later, marking this time that was a U.S. citizen. They also stated she also applied correctly as a resident alien, rather than as a U.S. citizen, to obtain a driver’s license.
Ortega’s trial attorney said in 2017 that she had voted for Paxton in 2014 and, in 2012, for presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The attorney said she did not cast a vote for president in 2016.
Republican politicians and think-tanks routinely raise the specter of voter fraud, stating it occurs at high levels and may affect the outcomes of elections. However, an extensive analysis of voting records by several independent organizations and periodicals reveal a provable voter-fraud rate from between 25 per million to 31 per billion, depending on methodology.
Following the 2016 election, President Donald Trump claimed with no evidence that millions of illegal votes were cast in California. Of the small number of proven cases of voter fraud, several involved voters casting ballots for Republican candidates.