Man who went viral for waiting seven hours to vote has been arrested in Texas for allegedly illegal voting

·2 min read
Voting lines in Texas forced some people to wait hour on Super Tuesday to cast their ballots (KTKR-TV)
Voting lines in Texas forced some people to wait hour on Super Tuesday to cast their ballots (KTKR-TV)

Texas resident Hervis Rogers went viral last year after he stood in line for seven hours to vote on Super Tuesday at the Texas Southern University polling place. He placed his vote at 1am, and was lauded for his dedication to participating in democracy.

Now he's being prosecuted by the Texas Attorney General's office for allegedly voting illegally.

Houston Public Media reports that before Mr Rogers went viral, he had been arrested and imprisoned for 25 years for burglary and an intent to commit theft in 1995. He was released on parole in 2004, and his parole was set to expire on 13 June, 2020.

Some states in the US, like Texas, deny people on probation the right to vote.

Because he voted several months before his parole expired, Mr Rogers technically voted illegally, and was subsequently arrested.

He was taken into custody on Wednesday and was charged with two counts of illegal voting. His bail has been set at a staggering $100,000.

The ACLU of Texas and attorney Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube have taken up his case.

His second charge likely stems from his vote on Election Day, which would have been rendered illegal under state law due to his violation of parole by voting on Super Tuesday.

Mr Rogers is not the only person Texas has targeted for voting while on parole. The Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has prioritised prosecuting alleged cases of voter fraud during his tenure.

Between 2005 and 2018, more than 130 people were prosecuted on charges alleging voter fraud.

In 2016, Crystal Mason voted while on federal supervised release, which made her ineligible to vote. She said she was not aware of the rules, but was offered a provisional ballot by the election officials at her polling place when she discovered her name was not on the voter roll.

She was arrested six months later.

Critics of the law said it targets people like Mr Rogers and Ms Mason, who have already served their prison terms but who may not be aware of the state's rules prohibiting them from voting.

Because imprisonment in the US disproportionately affects people of colour, so too does the prosecution of voters who are accused of committing voter fraud by casting a ballot while on parole.

In Texas, Black people are four times more likely to be imprisoned than white people, according to criminal justice reform organisation The Sentencing Project.

Lawmakers in Texas attempted to rectify the issue back in 2007, when both the House and Senate approved a bill requiring the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to notify people released from custody that they are ineligible to vote, but former Governor Rick Perry vetoed the bill.

State Rep John Bucy presented a similar bill earlier this week.

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