The protracted public relations campaign on behalf of a non-U.S. citizen found to have voted illegally in north Texas continued over the weekend pages of The New York Times.
Legal and media allies of likely future deportee Rosa Maria Ortega, 37, of Grand Prairie continue to press the public on the inherent unfairness of a Texas law stating that voting when not eligible is a class 2 felony. As Breitbart Texas previously reported, Ortega was indicted in 2015 after attempting multiple times to register to vote in Tarrant County after casting ballots as a Dallas resident in the years prior. When told by Tarrant election officials that she could not qualify for registration as a green card holder, she then claimed to be a citizen in a subsequent attempt—creating suspicion and a criminal investigation thereafter. Ortega was convicted of illegally voting in 2012 and 2014 and was sentenced to eight years in prison with deportation likely to follow.
The Times lent a friendly ear to Ortega over the weekend, noting that the junior high dropout continues to share her unhappiness with the proceedings:
Her punishment may be unprecedented for an offense that often draws a minimal sentence or probation. Ms. Ortega, who has a seventh-grade education and a sometimes shaky grasp on the complexities of her life, has steadfastly insisted that she did not know she was violating the law — that she is being imprisoned and probably deported for the crime of being confused.
The article later summarizes Ortega’s attorney Domingo Garcia’s outrage by casting doubts on whether the Texas county that originally accepted the “affluenza” defense in a fatal drunk-driving crash could fairly handle the voter fraud case. The puff piece then conflates different legal issues to paint Texas as discriminatory toward Hispanic voters:
Ms. Ortega’s lawyers are casting her as a scapegoat. The case, they say, was manufactured to prop up Mr. Trump’s baseless voter-fraud claims and an anti-fraud law by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature that tightens qualifications for voting. Federal courts have ruled that the latest version of that law discriminates against Latinos and other groups that tend to favor Democratic candidates.
It is unclear if the author’s reference to an “anti-fraud law … that tightens qualifications for voting” is the same law that Ortega was convicted of violating. Regardless, it has not had a discriminatory finding leveled against it by a federal court—let alone challenged.
The Times makes considerable effort to paint Ortega as a civically-minded resident who wants to make her voice heard, yet is sometimes confused by the complications of modern life in so doing. Even if that is true, the paper fails to note the multiple reminders of the law she faced when making her voter registration attempts. Regardless of whether she used a form printed by the State of Texas or the federal government, prospective voters are not asked if they believe they are eligible participate. Rather, they are asked binary questions under penalty of perjury that inform them further on whether to complete the application. Ortega answered “YES” multiple times to the question, “Are you a United States Citizen?” despite being a green card holder.
The New York paper begrudgingly admits that Ortega’s hopes for leniency rest on shaky ground at best, noting that deportation back to Mexico will be a likely next step after her sentences are served. The Times does, however, see some slivers of victory in the form of public relations outreach:
In the court of public opinion, they have had some success. Ms. Ortega’s conviction has drawn an outcry in editorials and from advocacy groups. Supporters contributed several thousand dollars to an online fund-raiser aimed at supporting her family while she was imprisoned.
Ortega’s story fits into a larger effort among left-leaning interest groups to take their fight against voter identification laws and the like to the court of public opinion, where if recent polling is suggestive of a larger trend, they are clearly underwater. Newly-created and former pro-Clinton super PACs have adopted missions to win “the public debate over voter suppression in the United States.” It remains to be seen if previous postures claiming voter fraud is a nonexistent problem will shift to such crimes being excusable as criminal cases continue to mount. As an example, a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wondered aloud if Ortega’s case proved that Texas’ laws were “too mean.”
Had Texas used a system that verified claims of citizenship during voter registration, the Mexican national could have been prevented from illegally voting altogether. Breitbart Texas reported at the time of Ortega’s sentencing on the legislation working though Austin:
The Ortega case has been prosecuted amid legislative activity in states like Texas and Virginia, which are actively pursuing legal reforms that would require individuals seeking to become registered voters to prove U.S. citizenship as a prerequisite. In Austin, House Bill 1079, authored by Rep. Mike Schofield (R-Houston), and SB 136, submitted by Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano), would require election clerks to verify citizenship with documents such as passports, birth certificates, and naturalization forms. The Public Interest Legal Foundation recently released a report documenting more than 1,000 cases of voters being removed from Virginia’s rolls for reasons related to citizen eligibility. Similar legislation is under consideration in that state as well. Only one state, Kansas, currently requires prospective voters to prove citizenship.
The Times closed with an ironic twist: “By registering and voting, [Ortega’s attorney] said, Ms. Ortega hoped to give her children a course in citizenship.”