Man who waited 6 hours to vote in 2020 primaries arrested, accused by Texas AG of electoral fraud

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

Just a day before Republicans force a special session of the Texas Legislature to tighten voting restrictions, Hervis Rogers, 62, was jailed on $ 100,000 bond in Montgomery County for two leaders illegal voting, according to court records, even 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 lawsuit.”

“The voter fraud argument is very hot right now, the statistics don’t seem to prove it is widespread, but this case will certainly, I guess, stay in people’s minds as a warning as to why you don’t. should never consider doing this. “, According to criminal defense attorney Christopher Downey, who is not affiliated with the case.

An indictment filed in Montgomery County District Court last month claims Rogers was still on parole on a burglary conviction in 1995 when he voted in both the March 2020 Democratic primary and the election. General November 2018.

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

The Texas Election Code states that a person on parole for a felony conviction 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 in a neighboring county. Because Rogers has three previous convictions between 1986 and 1995 – all of burglary or theft – he potentially faces between 25 years and life in prison, Downey said.

The charges against Rogers are “extremely unusual” for Downey, who said in his nearly 30 years in criminal law he had never encountered a case of voter fraud. The choice to sue in more conservative Montgomery County instead of Harris County, where the alleged fraud occurred, “also stinks of forum shopping” and “strengthens the argument that this is a lawsuit symbolic ”, even if the decision is legally valid.

If Rogers were indeed ineligible, his only point of contention might be that he was unaware of the restrictions on his eligibility, Downey said, although he noted that ignoring a law didn’t really constitute legal defense.

“The Hervis case shows why we need to make sure that people who have been denied the right to vote are fully aware of their voting rights, but we also need to change the laws to fully restore voting rights. Said Stephanie Gomez, associate director of Common Cause Texas, a self-proclaimed “pro-democracy” group. “There is already a lack of clarity around restoring voting rights for people who have been disenfranchised by the criminal justice system. “

A House bill introduced by Representative John Bucy III, D-Austin, to inform convicted felons of restrictions on their eligibility to vote is currently in committee in the Texas Legislature.

The Harris County Election Commission said the Harris County District Attorney’s Office informed the Registrar of Voters’ office of the allegations against Rogers after the March election and sent a letter to Rogers giving him 30 days to respond to the election. accusation of ineligibility. He was struck off the electoral roll on April 5 after they did not receive a response, the commission said.

The attorney general’s office said more information on Rogers’ arrest was forthcoming, but declined to comment immediately.

“Hervis is currently being held in prison because he cannot pay the extraordinarily high bail, and all for trying to exercise his civic duty, and that is not justice,” said Thomas Buser-Clancy, an American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney in Texas representing Rogers.

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

Rogers was the last person to vote in the March primary at Texas Southern University, waiting more than six hours to vote just past 1 a.m.

“When I got there, I started to turn around. It was a long line, ”Rogers said at the time. “Everywhere I went it was a madhouse. “

His arrest comes as the Texas Legislature debates a controversial voting bill in a special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott, who said the proposed restrictions – which include a 24-hour vote ban round-the-clock and drive-thru voting, banning election officials from sending absentees requests for ballots to all voters and increasing freedoms for election observers – are needed to guard against electoral fraud .

Critics of the bill have likened it to voter suppression and question the timing of Rogers’ arrest.

“When you push forward bills that criminalize our elections, it hurts Texans and people like Hervis,” Gomez said. “It is not for me that the governor has called a special session where they are pursuing these allegations of widespread electoral fraud across Texas… the timing is by no means lost on me.”

The arrest is part of a larger effort by Paxton to make voter fraud prevention a top priority for his office. A Houston Chronicle investigation in December found that the attorney general’s office spent more than 22,000 working hours tracking electoral fraud cases in 2020, but only resolved 16 lawsuits, and an ACLU analysis shows that the vast majority of those prosecuted since 2015 have been blacks and Latinos. . Rogers is African American.

In one notable case, Crystal Mason, a 45-year-old black woman from Fort Worth, was sentenced to five years in prison for tentatively voting in the 2016 presidential election – one that was never counted – while she was on probation for a federal conviction. She said she didn’t know she was not entitled to vote.

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

Meanwhile, Paxton has been charged with securities fraud since 2015 and is the subject of an FBI investigation into allegations he illegally aided a wealthy donor. Paxton has denied the charges.

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




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