Partisans across the nation denounced Republicans during the 2021 debate over election integrity measures for “waging a nationwide assault on voting rights,” and dreaming up policies that were “Jim Crow in a tuxedo.” Unfortunately for the left’s narrative, if there was a vast rightwing conspiracy to suppress votes, then it’s doing a pretty awful job at it. Despite the accusations, more people voted in Texas’ 2022 primary elections than in the state’s 2018 midterms.

Additionally, media outlets such as CNN continue to claim that voter fraud “isn’t really a thing,” and that if there is fraud in our elections then “there is ZERO evidence that these rule-breakers are doing so in any sort of coordinated way.”

They couldn’t be more wrong.

The left’s election falsehoods unraveled once again in June when Monica Mendez, a volunteer deputy for the 2018 water board election in Bloomington, Texas, pled guilty to 26 counts of voter fraud. She did so on behalf of a shady “non-profit” developer known as ALMS, who wanted to hijack the water board in order to pay a lower price for water on its properties. She was caught when approximately 275 “individuals” were registered to vote at the same P.O. Box connected to ALMS.

This isn’t the first time ALMS has been involved in manipulating an election. In 2016, the Texas Rangers investigated the company after allegations surfaced that ALMS was attempting to bribe its tenants into voting for ALMS backed water board candidates. When bribery didn’t go far enough, in 2018 ALMS was accused of switching from the carrot to the stick by allegedly threatening to raise the rents of their tenants if they didn’t vote how ALMS wanted them to in the water board election.

Bloomington is a small town of only 2,500 people. In its 2018 water board election, only 563 people voted, and 12 votes separated those who made the board and those who didn’t. These small elections, where only a few votes can swing the entire outcome, are the elections most prone to voter fraud.

Utility boards, like Bloomington’s water board, control thousands—even millions—of dollars in city funds used to dole out contracts to bidders. But it’s not just utility boards at risk. Local offices such as city council, which have small elections and control millions of dollars in contracts, are prime targets for fraud. The profit incentive is there, and fraudsters are taking advantage.

Mendez’s case illustrates why we need election integrity laws. Her scheme involved the use of mail-in ballots for which new protections were added in 2021 by Senate Bill 1 which prevent the distribution of unsolicited mail-in ballot applications. Additionally, SB 1 mandates new ID requirements for mail-in ballots which will then be compared with previous voting records to determine if the person registered to vote is who they say they are. Texas’ new election integrity laws will likely prevent fraud like Mendez’s from happening in the future.

What’s more, these laws were overwhelmingly popular with Texans in the lead up to their passage in the 87th legislative session. Polling showed that 90% of Texans believe an ID should be required to vote, and 80% believe that mail-in ballots and in-person voting should have uniform protections.

But the most concerning part of the Mendez case isn’t the fraud itself, it’s the sentence passed down after her guilty plea. She received no jail time and instead was given a mere five years of deferred adjudication, 80 hours of community service, and a $1,415 fine. The deferred adjudication means that, assuming she stays out of trouble, all the charges will be completely stricken from her record. It may not even be the full five years before this case disappears for Mendez. After that, she could even be back volunteering at the polls.

So in reality, her punishment was the fine. And when millions of dollars are at stake, a couple thousand dollars in fines is a drop in the bucket. Texas’ new election integrity laws account for this by raising the penalties for fraud, but they must be consistently enforced if Texas is serious about securing its elections.

Don’t be fooled by the left’s narrative. Voter fraud is real and so are its consequences. Texas must do everything possible to stamp it out and ensure that criminal fraudsters can no longer hijack our elections.