Texas election officials have acknowledged that hundreds of people were allowed to bypass the state’s toughest-in-the-nation voter ID law and improperly cast ballots in the November presidential election by signing a sworn statement instead of showing a photo ID. The chief election officers in two of the state’s largest counties are now considering whether to refer cases to local prosecutors for potential perjury charges or violations of election law. Officials in many other areas say they will simply let the mistakes go, citing widespread confusion among poll workers and voters. The Texas law requires voters to show one of seven approved forms of identification to cast ballots. It was softened in August to allow people without a driver’s license or other photo ID to sign an affidavit declaring that they have an impediment to obtaining required identification. Even after the affidavits were introduced, voters who possess an acceptable photo ID were still required to show it at the polls.
Articles about voting issues in Texas.
Partisan efficiency experts might love the time-saving charms of straight-ticket voting, but a number of the state’s top elected officials are ready to outlaw the practice. Straight-ticket, or one-punch, voting allows people to cast a ballot for all of one party’s candidates with one pull of the lever, stroke of the pencil or click of the voting button. Its requires partisan faith on the part of a voter, an expression of trust in a party’s primary voters, a conviction that the chosen candidates — no matter who they are, what they’ve done and whether they are qualified — are better than candidates offered by the opposition party. And it makes the coattails of the people at the top of the ballot very, very influential. Just ask a judge. “I will say only a word about judicial selection, but it is a word of warning,” Texas Supreme Chief Justice Nathan Hecht said this week in his State of the Judiciary speech. “In November, many good judges lost solely because voters in their districts preferred a presidential candidate in the other party.”
Texas: Pasadena won’t fight voting rights order; elections will proceed as planned | Houston Chronicle
The city of Pasadena will not fight an appellate court ruling over its election system, a decision that will allow the upcoming May council elections to proceed with eight-single member district seats, according to the lead attorney for the city in the closely watched voting rights case. The elections will proceed under the district format and will not using six neighborhood council and two at-large seats, a system a district judge ruled was discriminatory against Latino voters. The city, through its attorneys, sought a stay of Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal’s order, but the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of appeals upheld the order.
Rosa Maria Ortega voted for Republican Ken Paxton for Texas attorney general in 2014. Now, as she sits behind a plate glass window Monday with heavy eyes and wearing a tan Tarrant County Jail jumpsuit, she’s 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 two counts of illegal voting for voting illegally in elections in 2012 and 2014. On Thursday, a Tarrant County jury handed down a sentence of eight years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each count. After serving her sentence, she will likely face deportation. She believes she is wrongly being used as an example of voter fraud. “I thought I was doing something right for my country. When they gave me the sentence they just broke my heart, and they didn’t just break my heart, but I already knew my family was going to be broken, my kids especially,” Ortega said Monday during an interview at the jail, where she will remain for about a month until being transported to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility. “To me, it’s like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this. I just can’t.’ ”
Texas: Murder, rapes have led to lighter sentences in Tarrant County than voter fraud | The Star-Telegram
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.”
At least 16,400 Texans who voted in the November election wouldn’t have been able to cast ballots if the state’s voter identification law had been in full effect, state voting records show. Adopted in 2011 by a Republican-dominated Legislature, the law requiring voters to show one of seven forms of photo identification has been mired in a years-long legal battle, with opponents arguing that it disenfranchises groups that are less likely to carry identification, such as young people, elderly people and racial minorities. Proponents of the law have argued that the measure is necessary to protect the integrity of the vote. In July, a federal appeals court ruled that the law was discriminatory, and a month later U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ordered the state to soften the ID requirements for the Nov. 8 election, greatly expanding the types of documentation voters could show to prove their identity. Voters using one of the newly approved documents had to sign statements explaining why they couldn’t obtain one of the seven types of ID originally required by the law.
A lawyer has said Donald Trump’s debunked claims of election rigging influenced the outcome of his client’s voter fraud trial, calling the US president’s comments “the 800lb gorilla” in the jury box. Rosa María Ortega, 37, a Mexican national, was jailed for eight years in Fort Worth, Texas, after being convicted of two felony counts of illegal voting over allegations that she improperly cast a ballot five times between 2005 and 2014. Her attorney, Clark Birdsall, said on Friday that Ortega was a permanent resident who was brought to the US as a baby and mistakenly thought she was eligible to vote. He said she voted Republican, including for the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, whose office helped prosecute her. Her sentence was tough: voter fraud convictions, which are rare, often result in probation. As a convicted felon, Ortega is likely to be deported after serving her sentence. Tarrant County prosecutors said jurors made clear they valued voting rights, but Birdsall said he believed Ortega would have fared better in a county with fewer “pro-Trump” attitudes.
Texas: Illegal Voting Gets Texas Woman 8 Years in Prison, and Certain Deportation | The New York Times
Despite repeated statements by Republican political leaders that American elections are rife with illegal voting, credible reports of fraud have been hard to find and convictions rarer still. That may help explain the unusually heavy penalty imposed on Rosa Maria Ortega, 37, a permanent resident and a mother of four who lives outside Dallas. On Thursday, a Fort Worth judge sentenced her to eight years in prison — and almost certainly deportation later — after she voted illegally in elections in 2012 and 2014. The sentence for Ms. Ortega, who was brought to this country by her mother as an infant, “shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure,” Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, said in a statement. Her lawyer called it an egregious overreaction, made to score political points, against someone who wrongly believed she was eligible to vote. “She has a sixth-grade education. She didn’t know she wasn’t legal,” said Ms. Ortega’s lawyer, Clark Birdsall, who once oversaw voter fraud prosecutions in neighboring Dallas County. “She can own property; she can serve in the military; she can get a job; she can pay taxes. But she can’t vote, and she didn’t know that.”
A case involving political “dark money” and the founder of an organization tied to President Donald Trump’s accusations of voter fraud could lead to a crush of anonymous cash infiltrating elections in the country’s second-largest state, a Democratic lawyer warned the Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday. The nine Republican justices on Texas’ highest civil court heard arguments involving the legality of the state’s ban on corporate contributions, disclosure requirements for political action committees and the question of when a politically active nonprofit should have to disclose its donors like a traditional PAC. Some believe that the case ultimately could wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court and potentially reshape campaign finance regulations nationwide.
The Pasadena election system that a judge ruled violated the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Hispanics cannot be used in the upcoming May council elections, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by a lower court judge ordering the city to revert to a 2011 system using all single-member districts for the May 6 elections, when the entire city council and the mayor’s seat are on the ballot. The expedited ruling – which came just two weeks before the deadline for candidates to file for office – is a blow to the city and its longtime mayor in a case being closely watched by voting rights advocates nationwide.