Green card holder sentenced for imaginary voter fraud in Texas

That imaginary voter fraud problem we are consistently assured we don’t have appears to be about as persistent as a late case stage of herpes. This week’s story however, involves more than allegations, reports or rumors. In the Lone Star State authorities have uncovered that rarest of beasts, an actual conviction and sentencing of an immigrant for the crime of voting while not being a citizen. A 37-year-old green card holder has been sentenced to nearly a decade in prison for voting in the 2012 and 2014 elections. (Washington Post)

A permanent U.S. resident living in Texas has been sentenced to eight years in prison for illegally voting, a punishment that will probably result in the woman’s deportation after she completes her sentence.

On Wednesday, a Tarrant County, Tex., jury convicted 37-year-old Rosa Maria Ortega on two felony charges of illegal voting, for casting a ballot as a noncitizen in 2012 and 2014. Ortega is a green-card holder who was brought to the United States from Mexico when she was an infant, her attorney said.

The decision was hailed by some — including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), who prosecuted the case — as a sign the state intends to crack down on voter fraud.

As with virtually all of these cases, reporters and their liberal supporters are quick to invoke the, “yeah, but…” defense. This was all, we are assured, a tragic mistake. Ms. Ortega simply didn’t know any better. She was an unwitting dupe of the system which somehow fails to inform new arrivals (even if they have been living here for more than three and a half decades) that you have to complete your naturalization process before you can vote. And even if that’s not the case, as we are repeatedly assured, this is just one person in a vast nation and not representative of any sort of trend. Let’s examine both of those arguments.

First of all, perhaps it’s true that the defendant was somehow unaware that she was not supposed to be voting as a green card holder. Anything’s possible I suppose. Perhaps she doesn’t follow the news very much or possibly she struggles with English as a second language. That might explain it were it not for one minor detail which the Washington Post did manage to cover in the report. After having voted illegally in 2012 and 2014, Ms. Ortega registered to vote in a different county and checked the box on the form indicating that she was not a citizen. Her application was denied and she then subsequently submitted a new application stating that she was a citizen. I don’t think we really need to call in Perry Mason on this one. That indicates a clear awareness of what went wrong in her first attempt and a deliberate action to correct the error and falsely claim voter status on the second.

Now let us once again touch briefly on this argument that these are exceptionally rare instances when they are uncovered. If we only found one or two in any given state during any given election cycle we might lend that some credence. But that’s simply not the case. As we’ve discussed here before, there are “isolated incidents” all over the country. And Ms. Ortega’s case is one of the rare ones where someone was actively looking into a dodgy situation. Usually they are found either when a rare intrepid reporter digs through the voter rolls or a disenfranchised absentee ballot voter bothers to complain. Other than that no one is really looking. Are we truly expected to believe that when this one needle in the haystack turns up it was the only one in Texas?

As a final note, activists are complaining about the length of the sentence that Ms. Ortega received. Eight years is well within the guidelines provided for sentencing in such cases. Claiming that she didn’t know any better, particularly in light of her multiple attempts to register in 2015, puts the lie to that. Combating actual voter fraud will remain a daunting challenge but having some criminals showing up on the front pages with lengthy prison terms might at least make some of the others think twice.