Last year, a man in Texas got lots of attention for waiting hours to cast a ballot in last year’s presidential primaries. His persistence caught the eye of a CNN news crew when he became the last person to vote at his Houston polling place and said he had waited “a little bit over six hours” to cast his ballot during Super Tuesday in March of last year. “I figured like it was my duty to vote. I wanted to get my vote in to voice my opinion. And I wasn’t going to let nothing stop me. So I waited it out,” Hervis Rogers told CNN at the time. On Wednesday, Rogers, 62, was arrested and charged with two counts of illegal voting. He was held in jail with bail set at $100,000, which was paid by the Bail Project, a nonprofit organization.
According to the June 24 indictment from the Texas attorney general’s office, Rogers cast ballots on March 3, 2020, and on Nov. 6, 2018, when he was not legally allowed to vote because he was still on parole. Rogers could face up to 40 years in prison for the two charges of illegal voting, which is considered a second degree felony in Texas.
In order to be found guilty, the person must vote when they know they aren’t eligible. Rogers’ attorneys say that is hardly the case here because he thought he could vote. Otherwise, why would he have been so public about it? “That’s why he went and stood in line for almost seven hours and spoke to CNN about it. He felt he was doing the right thing,” Andre Segura, ACLU Texas’ legal director, said. “Where’s the evidence he knew or intended to vote illegally?” But they say the case illustrates the risks of making some people scared to cast a ballot in an election. “Mr. Rogers’s prosecution really shows the danger of overcriminalizing the election code and the process of participating in a democratic society,” Tommy Buser-Clancy, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said. “In particular, it raises the danger that criminal statutes in the election code are being used to go after individuals who at worst have made an innocent mistake. That’s not what any laws should be doing.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has a penchant for pursuing election fraud cases, defended the prosecution. “Hervis is a felon rightly barred from voting under TX law,” Paxton said in a tweet Friday. “I prosecute voter fraud everywhere we find it!” Some have questioned the timing of the arrest that came just as the Texas Legislature was discussing new voting restrictions that Democrats had blocked in May. Some democratic lawmakers say Paxton, and other Republicans, are intentionally targeting minorities.