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Man waiting 6 hours to vote in 2020 primarily arrested, accused by Texas AG of voter fraud



A Houston man who last year made headlines for standing in line for six hours to vote at Texas Southern University was charged this week by Attorney General Ken Paxton for illegally casting that ballot while on probation.

Just a day before Republicans forced a special session of the Texas Legislature to tighten voting restrictions, Hervis Rogers, 62, was jailed on $ 100,000 bail in Montgomery County on two counts of illegal voting, court records show, though he lives and voted in Harris County . Rogers is due back in court on July 20 in what a legal expert called a “symbolic prosecution.”

“The argument about voter fraud is very hot right now, the statistics do not seem to prove that it is widespread, but this case will certainly maintain, I think, in people̵

7;s memories as a warning story why you should never consider doing so, “According to criminal defense attorney Christopher Downey, who is not involved in this case.

A lawsuit filed last month in Montgomery County District Court alleges Rogers was still on parole for a 1995 burglary conviction when he voted in both the March 2020 and November 2018 Democratic primary.

He was released from prison in May 2004 after serving nine years with a 25-year sentence, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He voted in the March election less than four months before his probation expired on July 1, 2020.

The Texas Electoral Code states that a person on probation for a crime offense is not eligible to register as a voter, and that election law violations can be prosecuted in the county where the alleged crime was committed, or an adjoining county. Because Rogers has three previous convictions between 1986 and 1995 – all for burglary or robbery – he is potentially between 25 years in prison, Downey said.

The charges against Rogers are “extremely unusual” for Downey, who in his nearly 30 years in criminal law has never encountered a case of voter fraud. The choice to prosecute in more conservative Montgomery County instead of Harris County, where the alleged fraud occurred, “also stinks of forum shopping” and “strengthens the argument that it is a symbolic prosecution,” though the movement is legally justifiable.

If Rogers was not actually eligible, his only point of contention could be that he was unaware of the limitations of his eligibility, Downey said, though he noted that ignorance of a law does not constitute much of a legal defense.

“The Hervis case demonstrates why we need to ensure that people who have been deprived of the court fully know their rights when it comes to voting, but we also need to change the laws to fully restore the right to vote. . ” said Stephanie Gomez, associate director of Common Cause Texas, a self-described “pro-democracy” group. “There is already a lack of clarity on the restoration of the voting rights of people who have been deprived of their rights by the criminal justice system.”

A house proposal introduced by rep. John Bucy III, D-Austin, of notifying convicted felons of restrictions on their eligibility is currently in the Texas Legislature’s committee.

The Harris County Electoral Commission said the Harris County Attorney’s Office notified the voter registrar’s office of the allegations against Rogers after the March election and sent a letter to Rogers giving him 30 days to respond to the allegation of ineligibility. He was removed from the electoral roll on April 5 after receiving no response, the commission said.

The Justice Department said more information about Roger’s arrest was forthcoming, but immediately declined to comment.

“Hervis is in jail right now because he can not pay the extraordinarily high bail, and it’s all for trying to carry out his civil duty, and that’s not justice,” said Thomas Buser-Clancy, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, representing Rogers.

Buser-Clancy did not offer details about Rogers’ defense, but Rogers has said he believed he was eligible to vote at the time.

Rogers was the last person to vote in the March premiere at Texas Southern University, waiting over six hours for his vote just after noon.

“When I got up, I started to turn around. It was a long queue, ”Rogers said at the time. “Everywhere I went it was a crazy house.”

His arrest comes as Texas lawmakers discuss a controversial ballot during a special session convened by Gov. Greg Abbott, who says the proposed restrictions – which include a 24-hour ballot and transit ban, prohibit election officials from issuing abstentions voting applications for all voters and increased freedoms for biased pollsters – are necessary to protect against voter fraud.

Critics of the bill have compared it to election repression and question the timing of Roger’s arrest.

“When you push through bills that criminalize our election, it hurts Texans and people like Hervis,” Gomez said. “It’s not lost on me that the governor has convened a special session in which they are chasing these allegations of widespread voter fraud throughout Texas … the timing is not lost on me at all.”

The arrest is part of a broader push by Paxton to make voter fraud prevention one of his office’s top priorities. A study by the Houston Chronicle in December showed that the Attorney General’s Office spent more than 22,000 man-hours tracking election fraud in 2020, yet solved only 16 prosecutions, and an analysis by the ACLU shows that the vast majority of people prosecuted since 2015 were blacks and Latinos. . Rogers is African American.

In a notable case, Crystal Mason, a 45-year-old black woman from Fort Worth, was sentenced to five years in prison for casting a preliminary ballot in the 2016 presidential election – one that was never counted – while under the supervision of the release of a federal belief. She has said she did not know she was not eligible to vote.

As of March, Texas AG’s office had 43 voice fraud cases pending and had resolved 155, the majority of which did not end in jail.

Meanwhile, Paxton has been charged with security fraud charges since 2015 and is facing an FBI investigation into allegations that he illegally helped a wealthy donor. Paxton has denied the allegations.

Taylor Goldenstein, Zach Despart and Michael Morris contributed to this report.




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