AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that the Texas 2nd Court of Appeals upheld the 2017 voter fraud conviction of Rosa Maria Ortega. A Tarrant County jury of 10 women and two men found Ortega guilty of voting illegally and sentenced her to eight years in jail.
Despite evidence that Ortega had been voting illegally for more than 10 years, the state of Texas offered her the minimum punishment available for the offense – two years community supervision, no prison, and no special conditions. Instead, she voluntarily chose a jury trial.
At the trial, prosecutors proved that at the same time Ortega falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen for the purposes of voting, she correctly informed the authorities that she was a resident alien in order to obtain a driver’s license. That evidence negated Ortega’s claim that she made an innocent mistake.
Prosecutors showed the jury proof that Ortega illegally registered to vote in 2002 and voted in four elections in Dallas County. The prosecutors established that when Ortega moved from Dallas County to Tarrant County in 2014, and correctly indicated she was not a U.S. citizen on her voting registration form, the county informed her in writing that she was ineligible to vote. Nevertheless, Ortega applied to vote again, this time falsely insisting she was a U.S. citizen. She illegally 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,” Attorney General Paxton said. “We will hold those accountable who falsely claim eligibility and purposely subvert the election process in Texas.”
After proving their case, the prosecutors did not recommend a specific term of prison time for Ortega, but instead left her sentence in the hands of the jury. The judge instructed it that the sentencing range for the type of offense Ortega committed – a second-degree felony – spanned from two to 20 years, or up to 10 years of probation. The court also read the standard jury instruction advising that early release through parole was available.
Although Ortega was sentenced to eight years in jail for voting illegally, she is eligible – under Texas parole law for this type of offense – to receive good time, work credits, and bonus time, making her potentially eligible for parole in less than 12 months.