Although conservatives' cries of voter fraud have frequently been mocked and Democrats have long insisted that such fraud is virtually non-existent, law enforcement in Texas have indicted a non-citizen who allegedly fraudulently voted in several elections.
A Tarrant County grand jury indicted Rosa Maria Ortega of Grand Prairie, Texas, alleging she has voted in several elections for the past decade, according to the CBS News affiliate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Illegal voting is a second-degree felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison, according to the Texas attorney general’s office.
Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said, “This is a big deal. 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.”
Democratic lawmakers have persistently opposed voter-identification laws.
Critics of a recently passed California motor-voter law that automatically registers any state resident who gets a drivers license, say it will flood the voter registration rolls with non-citizens — legal and illegal — because the state already grants drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.
Further, an Old Dominion University study published last year in the journal, Electoral Studies, found that non-citizen votes can have a significant impact on election results, possibly giving the state of North Carolina to President Barack Obama in 2008 and helping Democratic Sen. Al Franken win a close Senate race in Minnesota in 2008.
Only the state of Kansas requires proof of citizenship to register to vote, according to True the Vote, a voter integrity advocacy group.
Most voter registration forms include a box requiring someone to check yes or no verifying they are a U.S. citizen. The problem is that most local election officials don't take many actions to verify if someone is telling the truth, said Logan Churchwell, research director for True the Vote.
"It's not just that most offices take their word for it, it's that most voter registration offices are so hands off, someone could tell the truth, or leave that blank, and in most cases would still be registered," Churchwell told TheBlaze.
He added that this is a large scale problem, but it's not just a matter for law enforcement.
"You could prosecute thousands of cases, but the root cause is we are not verifying citizenship and taking people's word for it," he said. "Until we have a larger conversation about varying citizenship, this is going to keep happening."
A non-U.S. citizen is not eligible to vote. Nevertheless, Ortega, identified as a legal resident of the United States and citizen of Mexico, allegedly registered to vote in Dallas County, claiming she was a U.S. citizen. She allegedly later attempted twice to register to vote with the Tarrant County Elections Office, which rejected her attempt.
Dallas County records show that Ortega voted several times starting in the 2004 election, the 2012 general election, and as recently as a 2014 Republican primary runoff.
The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office referred the illegal voting allegations to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
“Protecting the integrity of elections is essential to our democracy and a top priority of my administration,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “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.”
This post was updated to include comments from Logan Churchwell,research director for True the Vote.