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Texan faces harsh penalties for mistakenly casting improper ballot

Everything about Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's prosecution of Hervis Rogers for illegal voting is tough to defend.


In the 2020 presidential election, there were a handful of Republican voters who deliberately cast illegal ballots on behalf of dead relatives. These voters were caught and charged, and they received sentences that can fairly be described as slaps on the wrist.

These voters, incidentally, were all White guys.

It was hard not to think of Crystal Mason, a Texan who cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 cycle while on supervised release for a federal conviction. She didn't know she was ineligible to vote, and her ballot was never counted, but Mason -- a Black woman -- was convicted of illegal voting and sentenced to five years in prison.

A similar case has come to the fore.

A Texas man who received widespread attention after standing more than six hours in line to vote in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary has been arrested on illegal voting charges after casting a ballot while on parole. Hervis Rogers, 62, was arrested on Wednesday on two counts of illegal voting, a second-degree felony that carries a possible sentence of two to 20 years in prison. His bail has been set at $100,000.

As Rachel noted on Friday night's show, Hervis Rogers briefly became the subject of national human-interest stories last year, not because he'd cast an improper ballot, because of the way in which he'd voted: Rogers arrived at his local precinct shortly before 7 p.m. on Texas' primary day, and he had to wait in line for more than six hours to vote. It led to stories, not only about this one man's impressive perseverance, but also about the dramatic flaws in the balloting process in Harris County, Texas.

(Harris County corrected those problems ahead of the general election, making it far easier for voters in and around Houston to participate in their own democracy. Texas Republican legislators are now desperate to undo those reforms and place new barriers between voters and ballot boxes.)

But last week, the human-interest story took a terrible turn: Hervis Rogers committed a felony in the 1990s, but he served his time and has been out of prison for more than 15 years. What the Texan did not realize is that he couldn't vote: his parole ended in June, and he cast a ballot in March.

And so, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton -- who happens to already be under criminal indictment and who's currently being investigated by the FBI -- brought charges against Rogers.

Rogers, like Crystal Mason, is a Black citizen of the state of Texas. Unlike Trump voters elsewhere who received minor sentences for their premeditated schemes to cast illegal votes, Rogers faces up to 20 years in prison and was told if he wanted to get out of jail, he'd need to put up $100,000 bail.

Also of interest, though Rogers lives in Harris County, and he voted in Harris County, the state attorney general's office charged and held him in nearby Montgomery County. When we asked Paxton's office about this, we were told that Paxton has the option of prosecuting Rogers in Harris County or any of the eight counties that abut it.

According to Census data, of those eight counties, Paxton's office appears to have chosen the one with the lowest proportion of African-American residents.

Rogers, who's 62 years old, was released on bail Saturday evening -- not because he had $100,000, but because private citizens learned of his case and contributed to an online fund.

Watch this space.