The eight-year prison sentence given to a Grand Prairie woman for voting illegally has been touted by politicians as a case that sent a message. “In Texas you will pay a price” for voter fraud, tweeted Gov. Greg Abbott. “This case shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure,” state Attorney General Ken Paxton said. But critics argue that Rosa Maria Ortega’s punishment, which was decided by a jury and drew national attention, was too harsh. “Illegal voting should be sanctioned but not like a violent felony,” The Wall Street Journal wrote in an editorial Monday. Sam Jordan, spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, said the eight-year sentence was the jury’s decision. “Our prosecutors — one from the attorney general’s office and one from our office — made no punishment recommendation,” Jordan said. “We said do what you think is right. We didn’t ask specifically for penitentiary time.”
Ortega’s attorney, Clark Birdsall, said Monday that he was still in shock. He said he felt that the jury was politically motivated by the “Trump effect,” even though Ortega voted Republican in 2012.
“Eight years for voting for Mitt Romney?” Birdsall said. “What if she voted for Obama? Would she have gotten 10 years? It’s a sign of the times. It’s the politics.”
The uproar over Ortega’s punishment prompted the Star-Telegram to look for other criminal cases with similar or lesser sentences, including some involving murder and sexual assault. Research turned up many cases. Here are some of them.