Politics & Government

North Texas woman arrested for voter fraud

Rosa Maria Ortega of Grand Prairie was arrested on two counts of illegal voting.
Rosa Maria Ortega of Grand Prairie was arrested on two counts of illegal voting. Handout photo

A Grand Prairie woman who voted in two recent elections — but is not a United States citizen — has been arrested for voter fraud.

Rosa Maria Ortega 35, was booked into the Tarrant County Jail last week on a $10,000 bond and has bonded out, local records show.

Ortega, who has been identified as a legal resident of Mexico, allegedly voted in person during 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,” according to a Tarrant County grand jury indictment and other records.

Voter fraud has been a longtime concern for Texas lawmakers.

She unsuccessfully tried to register to vote twice in Tarrant County, records show.

“Protecting the integrity of elections is essential to our democracy and a top priority of my administration,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. “As long as there are criminals seeking to exploit our system of elections, we stand ready to investigate, prosecute and restore confidence that the will of the people of Texas is heard.”

Illegally voting is a second degree felony, which is punishable by two to 20 years in prison.

Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Harry White is prosecuting the case.

“This is a big deal,” Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said in a statement. “People insist this kind of thing doesn’t happen, but it’s happening right here at home. The principle of one citizen, one vote is one of our most fundamental rights as U.S. citizens, and must be protected.”

Voter fraud has been a longtime concern for Texas lawmakers who have said that was a key factor in passing a law requiring Texas voters to show photo ID when voting in 2011. That law was tied up in the courts for years, amid various challenges, and didn’t go into effect until 2013.

But Texas voters starting in 2013 did have to show their ID, something that impacted the late former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright. In November 2013, Wright was temporarily denied a voter ID card at a Texas Department of Public Safety Office.

He eventually was given an ID card to use, but he said he was worried that such problems and difficulties could deter some people from voting.

“I earnestly hope these unduly stringent requirements on voters won’t dramatically reduce the number of people who vote,” Wright told the Star-Telegram in 2013. “I think they will reduce the number to some extent.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley