Green-card holder who voted illegally in Texas sentenced to 8 years in prison
© Greg Nash

A permanent U.S. resident living in Texas was sentenced to eight years in prison for illegally voting in multiple elections over several years, including for Mitt Romney in 2012, though not in the 2016 election.

A Tarrant County jury convicted 37-year-old Rosa Maria Ortega, a green-card holder, on two felony charges of illegal voting for casting a ballot as a noncitizen in 2012 and 2014, The Washington Post reported.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has applauded the ruling as a crackdown on voter fraud.

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Ortega, who was a registered Republican, voted for Paxton for attorney general in a GOP primary runoff in 2014, her attorney told the Post.

Her attorney said that Ortega, a single mother of four teenagers who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico as an infant, will likely be deported after serving her sentence, as she will be a convicted felon. 

“This case shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure, and the outcome sends a message that violators of the state’s election law will be prosecuted to the fullest,” Paxton said in a statement. “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy.”

Others, however, are slamming the ruling as unusually harsh, criticizing the decision as a forceful example made to prove a point about President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, which he has repeated in an attempt to explain why he lost the popular vote in the November election.

“She doesn’t know. She’s got this [green] card that says ‘resident’ on it, so she doesn’t mark that she’s not a citizen,” her attorney, Clark Birdsall, told the Post. “She had no ulterior motive beyond what she thought, mistakenly, was her civic duty.”

Ortega reportedly cast a single ballot in both elections.

“It’s a single vote that she’s casting” each time, Birdsall said. “The fact that she got eight years is off the rails.”