Voter fraud was a hotly debated issue during the last presidential election. While some people were convinced that it was a widespread issue, there have only been a few isolated incidents that have come to light around the nation — none amounting to more than a few ballots.

However, even one fraudulent ballot damages the integrity of the democratic system and is a serious crime.

A 74-year-old Florida woman barely escaped prison for filling in the absentee ballots of a few other people while she was working at a Miami elections post.

She could offer the judge no real explanation for what she did. She wasn’t affiliated with anyone’s campaign, she wasn’t being paid, and she wasn’t even sophisticated about her actions — she was caught by another worker after filling in just a few ballots. She admitted that she honestly couldn’t tell anyone why she did what she did — that it was an impulsive action that she deeply regrets.

Just the same, the prosecution wanted to see her serve six months behind bars.

The judge, however, declared this to be an isolated incident by a woman that is elderly, plagued by health problems and depression — and poses no further threat to the public. She had no previous criminal record and seems to have led an honest life up until this point. Her crime is still serious, so she will have to endure two years under house arrest and another three on probation. She is also now a convicted felon and — perhaps most painfully for her — will never be allowed to vote again.

Similar cases across the country have resulted in a wide variety of sentences. Some offenders have been sentenced to jail while others have been allowed to plead to charges that left them without a felony conviction.

Cases like this illustrate two things. First, the political climate around “hot button” issues can draw extraordinary attention to a crime — which can often make a prosecutor push for a harsher sentence than he or she might when an issue is not under heavy public scrutiny. Second, mitigating factors — like a defendant’s age, mental health, physical health and perceived motive (or lack of one) — can be used to convince a judge to go easier than he or she might otherwise.

For more advice regarding a felony charge or defense, talk to an attorney today.

Source: Miami Herald, “Ballot fraud won’t send elderly Miami woman to jail but she will lose right to vote,” David Ovalle, Aug. 16, 2017