Photo: AP

Anyone who believes that political rhetoric is a game, or that civility is an important virtue in politics should tell it to Rosa Maria Ortega, who has been sentenced to eight years in prison for the crime of voting, a sacrifice on the altar of a right-wing slogan.

Ortega, who has a green card, is a permanent U.S. resident but not a citizen eligible for voting. In 2014, according to the appeals court ruling, she submitted a voter registration form and indicated that she is not a citizen. Her application to vote was rejected. She called the office and asked why, and they told her that it was because she had checked “No” on the citizenship question; so she resubmitted the form and checked “Yes.” The office then registered her to vote. And then:

As you can see, she was allowed to vote due to bureaucratic error, even after she plainly said she was not a citizen. When investigators came to see her, she told them this. In January 2016, she was arrested. Last year, she was tried, convicted by a Texas jury, and sentenced to eight years in prison. Now, that conviction has been upheld. The office of Texas attorney general Ken Paxton proudly announced this fact in a press release. They prominently state that they offered Ortega a plea deal, but “Instead, she voluntarily chose a jury trial.” How dare she?

Advertisement

Rosa Maria Ortega is a mother of four. She has a sixth-grade education. She testified that she didn’t understand the forms.

The fictional specter of “voter fraud” is a staple claim of the Republican Party today that is deliberately designed to provide cover for systematic voter oppression. It is a lie, and it is a strategy, and it works. In order to persist, this strategy demands examples that can be held up, like guillotined heads before the roaring crowd. Ken Paxton is proud of his role in this charade.

Every time you hear a pundit on television telling you that we must pursue “civility” above all, think about Rosa Maria Ortega, sitting in a Texas prison, because she voted, and because some minor paperwork error allowed her to do so. Then think about her four children, whose mother is now incarcerated. Then think about Ken Paxton, and Ted Cruz, and the Texas Republican Party, and the national Republican Party, and the president of the United States, and all of Fox News, everyone else who waves the flag of “voter fraud” as a poisonous political tool. Think about who the heroes are, and who the villains are. Think about where justice lies in the United States of America.

Advertisement

Politics is not a game.