Voter fraud has been a major issue in Texas in recent years amid high-profile prosecutions of people who voted when they were ineligible.
However, claims that as many as 95,000 Texans were committing voter fraud unraveled in February.
David Whitley, the Acting Secretary of State of Texas, came under fire for a report that questioned the citizenship of 95,000 residents. The implications were severe. Thousands of people faced potential felony charges and the loss of their voting rights.
The Texas Tribune reported the secretary of state’s office eventually retreated on its initial findings. Numerous errors in the data revealed that tens of thousands of the voters it flagged were citizens.
Before the errors became apparent, Whitley handed over information about those registered voters to Ken Paxton, Texas attorney general. Paxton has the jurisdiction to prosecute the people on the list for felony crimes.
Paxton is seeking to expand the prosecutorial power of his office. He asked the Legislature for more money and expanded jurisdiction to go after crimes related to abortion and voter fraud earlier this year. He is also seeking greater resources to prosecute human trafficking crimes. Voter fraud remains a political hot button issue.
Shortly after coming to power, President Donald Trump set up a voting integrity commission. It was disbanded after finding little evidence of election fraud.
However, high profile prosecutions have taken place in Texas. Crystal Mason, a woman who tried to cast a ballot as a felon, received five years in a federal prison in September 2018 for voter fraud.
Mason tried to vote in the 2016 election. Although she used her real name and identification, her criminal past made voting a crime.
She surrendered voluntarily to authorities and was imprisoned in Fort Worth, reported CBS News. Mason said she made a genuine mistake and did not realize she was unable to vote.
Rosa Maria Ortega, a Mexican citizen living in Texas also argued she was unfairly treated when she was sentenced for voter fraud in 2017.
Ortega was a green card holder. She was convicted on two counts of illegal voting after she claimed to be a United States citizen and voted at least five times between 2012 and 2014. A jury sentenced her to eight years in prison and fined her $5,000.
Ortega argued she did not understand the differences between the rights granted to citizens and green card holders like herself.
Voter fraud is taken very seriously in Texas. It attracts severe penalties whether or not the perpetrator was aware of the consequences. Please contact our experienced Dallas defense lawyers if you have been charged with this crime.