Fort Worth

Grand Prairie woman guilty of voter fraud

A Tarrant County jury found a Grand Prairie woman guilty Wednesday of two counts of illegal voting and is set to resume deliberations in the punishment phase of her trial Thursday morning.

Rosa Maria Ortega, 37, was found guilty of voting in the November 2012 general election and the May 2014 Republican primary runoff in Dallas County “when she knew she was not a United States citizen.”

Ortega, 37, testified Wednesday that at the time she voted she did not understand the differences between the rights granted to a United States citizen and the rights granted to a U.S. legal resident.

Ortega is eligible for probation but faces up to 20 years in prison on each count. She was held in custody Wednesday evening after the judge held her bond insufficient.

Ortega testified that until — and even after — she got a letter in October 2013 from the Tarrant County elections office, she believed she had the right to vote.

“I didn’t have the study, the guidance, the education,” Ortega testified.

Ortega told the jury she believed that state officials would make a determination about her eligibility and inform her of their decision.

“If I knew, everything would have been done the correct way,” Ortega testified. “All my life I was taught I was a U.S. citizen.”

Attorneys for the state presented evidence showing that on a driver’s license form, she checked a box indicating she was not a citizen.

“You didn’t want to lie to them,” Jonathan White, assistant attorney general, said.

White said Ortega never pursued the process for becoming a citizen but told investigators with the attorney general’s office that she did try to become a U.S. citizen.

The trial is taking place with the subject of voter fraud in the headlines, after President Donald Trump claimed shortly after taking office in January that millions of votes in the 2016 presidential election were illegally cast.

An earlier Fort Worth voting fraud case, when Democratic precinct chairwoman candidate Hazel Brionne Woodard arranged for her son to vote under his father’s name in 2011, also drew new attention last fall on social media. Woodard was sentenced to probation in 2015 after admitting her guilt.

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3