A 55-year-old woman in Texas plead guilty to voter fraud on Monday for forging ballots in the 2012 primary election. The case will certainly become fodder in the defense of the state's new, restrictive voter ID law. But it shows, above all else, how completely unnecessary that law actually is.
According to an alert from the FBI (which we saw via Ryan Reilly), Sonia Leticia Solis faces up to five years in prison after her sentencing next February. She admitted that she obtained "multiple mail-in ballots by forging applications on behalf of individuals she represented to be disabled." How many votes she actually completed isn't clear, nor is the race which she was hoping to influence.
The FBI notes that the race at issue "included candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives," and that Solis was a resident of Brownsville. That puts her in Texas' new congressional district, the 34th, and means that she committed the fraud while voting in either the primary or run-off elections in that district for either party.
Solis could have had the most effect if she'd been voting in the Republican primary in the heavily-Democratic district. That race was settled by only 223 votes. So Solis would "only" have had to come up with 223 different people that were eligible to vote that didn't plan to, forge their applications and votes, and return each to the state.
And that's the closest race. Even if she'd propelled the No. 2 candidate in the primary into the No. 1 slot, there was still the run-off. On the Republican side, that was settled with a margin of 1,022 votes — five times as many applications and ballots to return. Solis didn't know the margin, of course; we only do after the fact. But that's the point: for her to have had an effect, the scale of the fraud would have had to have been massive.
If she was voting on the Republican side! On the Democratic side, eventual winner Filemon Vela won the plurality of votes in his primary by a margin of 12,423 votes — one out of every 15 voters in Brownsville. He won the run-off, mandated because he fell under the 50 percent threshhold, by a margin of 7,804. That's still probably more than Solis' vote fraud system could manage.
Texas' new voter ID law, one that took a battle in the Supreme Court to go into effect, was deemed the "most stringent" in the country. The state's argument that it isn't racist (though it screens out a heavy percentage of Latino voters) is that it filters out more Democratic voters, many of whom happen to be people of color. That's their argument for the measure. And over the weekend, it became clear that it works: the former Speaker of the House Jim Wright wasn't able to get the ID he needs in order to vote.
But all of that aside, even ignoring the math behind Solis' voter fraud, the most obvious reason that the new voter ID isn't needed is that Solis was caught. Even assuming she had a wide-scale effort to swing the election in the Republican primary, if she'd put together the 1,000 votes needed to propel the Republican candidate to the general (where she lost by 25 percentage points) — she was caught doing so. The law, as it stands, worked.
Solis' arrest isn't proof that more voter ID laws are needed. It's evidence that they aren't.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.