Jury upholds Ortega voter fraud conviction in Texas
by Joycelyne Fadojutimi
Rosa Maria Ortega had a choice when indicted for voter fraud–she could accept a light sentence of two years community supervision without prison or special conditions, or she could have a jury trial. She chose the courtroom and lost.
For 10 years, Ortega had been voting illegally. She cast fraudulent ballots for Mitt Romney and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. It was Paxton who just announced Ortega’s 2017 conviction has been upheld by the Texas 2nd Court of Appeals. A Tarrant County jury of 10 women and two men found her guilty of illegally casting ballots and sentenced her to eight years.
Prosecutors proved Ortega lied when she claimed she had made an honest mistake, and that instead she deliberately lied, saying she was an American citizen and therefore entitled to vote. She was actually a resident alien, and freely identified herself as such when she obtained a driver’s license. The prosecution also presented the jury with evidence that in 2002, Ortega illegally registered to vote, and did so in four separate Dallas County elections. When she relocated from Dallas County to Tarrant County in 2014, she truthfully indicated on a voter registration form that she was not a citizen and received written notification of her ineligibility to vote. She then applied a second time, falsely claiming to be a citizen, and voted five times between 2004 and 2014.
“This case underscores the importance that Texans place on the institution of voting and the hallowed principle that every citizen’s vote must count,” said Paxton. “We will hold those accountable who falsely claim eligibility and purposely subvert the election process in Texas.”
After obtaining a conviction the prosecution did not request a specific period of prison time for Ortega but left the decision entirely up to the jury. The judge informed the panel of the specific sentencing range for such a 2nd degree felony as Ortega’s is two to 20 years in prison, or ten years’ probation. The judge also read the jurors the standard instruction that early release through parole is possible.
Ortega received a term of eight years, meaning that in Texas, considering good behavior, work credits and bonus time, she could be entitled to parole in less than a year.