Feb. 12 (UPI) -- A permanent U.S. resident was sentenced to eight years in prison and faces eventual deportation after she illegally voted in the 2012 and 2014 elections in Texas.
A Tarrant County grand jury found Rosa Maria Ortega, 37, of Grand Prairie, Texas, a Dallas suburb, guilty Wednesday on two counts of illegal voting.
Ortega, the mother of four, voted in the November 2012 election and May 2014 GOP primary runoff in Dallas County knowing she wasn't a U.S. citizen. Her lawyer, Clark Birdsall, told The New York Times that she voted for Attorney General Ken Paxton in 2014, as well as Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in 2012.
"She'll do eight years in a Texas prison," Birdsall said. "And then she'll be deported, and wake up blinking and scratching in a country she doesn't know."
The green card holder said she thought she had the right to vote, though she received a letter in October 2013 from the Tarrant County elections office.
Ortega, who was bought to the United States from Monterrey, Mexico, as an infant, testified that she did not understand the differences between rights granted to citizens and the rights granted to legal residents.
"If I knew, everything would have been done the correct way," Ortega testified. "All my life I was taught I was a U.S. citizen."
Prosecutors showed the jury that she checked a box on her driver's license form indicating she was not a citizen.
Ortega's voter registration in Dallas County was canceled in April 2015 when elections officials learned she had registered to vote in Tarrant County. She had voted in five elections in Dallas before her registration was canceled.
Ortega did not vote in the 2016 presidential election, Birdsall, told The Washington Post.
"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," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said in a statement. "Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy."
She voted for Paxton for Texas attorney general in a 2014 Republican primary runoff.
Paxton's office and the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office jointly prosecuted the case.
In July, a federal appeals court ruled that the state's strict voter-ID law discriminated against minority voters. In January, the Supreme Court declined to review the lower court's ruling.
A 2015 fact-check by PolitiFact found that 85 election fraud prosecutions since 2002, among about 72 million ballots cast in Texas between 2000 and 2014.
"She wasn't trying to topple the country," her attorney said. "She was trying to make more serious decisions about our country than the 50 percent of the people who didn't bother to vote in the last election."
"This country is so inflamed by this Donald Trump nonsense that they've turned her into a whipping boy," he said.
The new president has said he will sign an executive order to launch an investigation into allegations of voter fraud that affected November's election.
Trump has repeatedly said he believes between 3 million and 5 million people voted illegally in the presidential election.