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Immigrant Who Cast Illegal Ballot Gets 8 Years, Election Chief Who Illegally Destroyed 50,000 Ballots Still Free

Updated on December 1, 2018
Left, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, right, Broward County Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes
Left, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, right, Broward County Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes

A legal resident who was born in Mexico and brought to the U.S. as an infant has been sentenced to 8 years in prison in Texas after she cast votes in 2012 and 2014 which were illegal. Meanwhile, a Florida election supervisor whom a state court ruled, as a finding of fact, had illegally destroyed over 50,000 ballots in a 2016 Democratic primary race, which involved a candidate she knows and openly supports, walks free.

Rosa Ortega, of Grand Prairie, Texas, had her 8 year sentence upheld by a Texas circuit judge last Tuesday. But in the same year she was originally sentenced, 2017, Broward County, Florida, election supervisor Brenda Snipes was found to have illegally destroyed 50,716 paper ballots - all the ballots in the race - after the loser requested a recount of the ballots. The illegal action secured the victory of a Hillary Clinton ally, and Snipes' friend, incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

In both cases, the defendants held that their actions were a mistake. In Ortega's case, it didn't matter.

Ortega's failed appeal comes as Wasserman-Schultz's Democratic primary opponent, Florida law professor Tim Canova, continues to call for criminal charges against Snipes. Federal law at 52 USC 20701 mandates that all paper ballots in any congressional election be preserved for at least 22 months, on pain of "not more than $1,000" or imprisonment "for up to one year," or both.

Ortega’s lawyer, Clark Birdsall, who reminded reporters that Ortega has a sixth grade education, said:

“She can own property; she can serve in the military; she can get a job; she can pay taxes. But she can’t vote, and she didn’t know that.”

Snipes, who holds a doctorate from Florida's Nova Southeastern University, has been Broward County election supervisor since 2003, when she was appointed by then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Federal law stipulates that in any federal election, ballots must be preserved for 22 months. A furious candidate Canova, who called for a paper ballot recount after professional statisticians pointed out unusual voting patterns, said recently on his campaign website:

"I reached out to Florida Governor Rick Scott months ago, as well as Democratic and Republican party officials, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and every member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. None responded, no one saw fit to investigate,"

After announcing her resignation this month, under pressure for many other instances of what her critics call illegal behavior, in recent Florida election recounts, observers have noted that Snipes may walk away with a $130,000 a year pension.

Rosa Ortega
Rosa Ortega


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