Rosa Maria Ortega voted for Republican Ken Paxton for Texas attorney general in 2014. Now, she believes she is wrongly being used as an example of voter fraud, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. She is crushed that Paxton and others can celebrate her incarceration as sending a message about illegal voting. Ortega, 37, a permanent resident who arrived in Texas as an infant and has four children, all U.S. citizens, was charged with voting illegally in in 2012 and 2014. Last week, a jury sentenced her to 16 years in prison, after which she will likely face deportation.
As a green-card holder, Ortega says she never thought she couldn’t vote. While a resident of Dallas County, Ortega received a voter card after providing a valid driver’s license and Social Security card and being approved through the state process. In 2012, she voted for Mitt Romney for president; two years later she voted for Paxton for attorney general, says her attorney, Clark Birdsall. Upon moving to Tarrant County, she again registered to vote, but her application was rejected because she checked the box indicating she is a non-citizen. Confused, she told election officials she had voted in Dallas County. She received another application and this time marked the box affirming that she is a citizen. That raised red flags, and she was arrested for voter fraud. “She wasn’t trying to topple the government. She was voting Republican for who she thought would do a good job,” Birdsall said. “This case shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure,” Paxton said.