Hervis Rogers, 62, went viral last year after he stood in line for six hours, determined to vote.
But court records show he was ineligible – he was still on parole at the time.
His attorney said Rogers faces up to 40 years in prison.
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A Texas man who made national headlines after standing in line for six hours to cast a ballot during the Democratic primary elections in March 2020 has been charged with illegally voting that day.
Hervis Rogers, 62, drew widespread praise on social media during the Super Tuesday primary last year, after telling news outlets he “wasn’t going to let anything stop [him]” from voting. Now, he’s been charged with two felony counts of illegal voting, according to court records.
Harris County court documents showed that Rogers was ineligible to vote when he stood in line at Texas Southern University on March 3, 2020. He had also been ineligible when he cast his ballot during the 2018 midterm elections, a grand jury indictment said.
Rogers was convicted in 1995 of burglary and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Court records showed he was released in 2004 and placed on parole that was set to end in June 2020, just months after he cast his Super Tuesday ballot.
Rogers’ story has been compared to that of Crystal Mason, a Texas woman sentenced to five years in prison after casting a provisionary ballot while she was on supervised release. Like Rogers, Mason said she hadn’t known that Texas’ laws barred her from voting.
In Texas, people who have been convicted of felonies may vote only after their sentence and parole terms have been completed.
Rogers’ attorney says his client believed it was legal to vote during the primary
Criminal justice reform advocates, as well as voting rights advocates, have long complained of overly punitive voting laws they fear could intimidate people out of voting.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas announced Friday it was representing Rogers and released a statement condemning voting laws that criminalize people for “innocent mistakes.”
“The arrest and prosecution of Mr. Rogers should alarm all Texans,” the statement said. “He waited in line for over six hours to vote to fulfill what he believed to be his civic duty, and is now locked up on a bail amount that most people could not afford. He faces potentially decades in jail.”
One of the ACLU attorneys representing Rogers told The New York Times his client had misunderstood the state’s voting laws – he believed it was fine for him to vote during the primary. He added that Rogers could face 40 years in prison if he’s convicted of both charges.
“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,” the attorney, Tommy Buser-Clancy, told The Times.
Rogers’ bail was set at $100,000, but he was released Saturday evening after receiving assistance from The Bail Project.
Robin Steinberg, the founder and CEO of The Bail Project, accused Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton of engaging in “political theatre.”
“Voting restrictions and the expansion of the cash bail system go hand in hand,” Steinberg said in a statement. “Mr. Hervis’s situation is a textbook example of how these systems intersect to undermine our fundamental rights and target minorities.”
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