As of Wednesday afternoon, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have racked up exactly one conviction in their quest to root out voter fraud in Dallas County. Miguel Hernandez, 28, arrested in July for illegal voting, pleaded guilty to improperly returning a marked ballot, a Class A misdemeanor, according to Johnson. Hernandez will serve 180 days in jail.
"This is the first of many milestones in the ongoing investigation into voter fraud in Dallas County," Johnson says. "We must protect the process so that all citizens may have confidence in the system."
A Dallas County grand jury indicted Hernandez last spring as part of an investigation into potential voter fraud in Dallas' May 2017 municipal election. Investigators in the case believed Hernandez was responsible for at least one tainted ballot turned in to to the Dallas County Elections Department during the District 6 City Council election between Omar Narvaez and Monica Alonzo. The ballot was signed "Jose Rodriguez," the alias attached to more than 700 ballots sequestered by a Dallas County judge in the days after the May 6 election.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, prosecutors got in touch with one of the voters for whom one of the dubious ballots was cast. The woman, who is not named in the affidavit, told investigators that she placed a blank ballot in a white envelope and the official carrier envelop and gave it to someone she believed was going to mail it back to the Dallas County Elections Department. She did not sign the back of the envelope, as is required.
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When the ballot showed up at elections headquarters, both the voter's signature and the "assisted by" line on the form had been filled out. The woman identified Hernandez from a lineup as the person to whom she'd given the ballot.
Hernandez's sentence is far lighter than those given out to two Tarrant County women charged with illegal voting in 2017 and 2018. In February 2017, a Tarrant County jury sentenced Rose Maria Ortega, a permanent U.S. resident, to eight years in prison for voting in several elections without being a U.S. citizen. In April, Crystal Mason, out on parole from federal prison on tax charges, got five years from state District Judge Ruben Gonzalez for casting a provisional ballot during the 2016 presidential election. Despite the disparity in the sentences, Johnson says she believes Hernandez's conviction will deter future voter fraud.
"It is my hope, with this conviction, that we will send a message to anyone who dares to threaten the integrity of the voting process. We will not tolerate it, and you will be brought to justice," Johnson says.