A Texas appeals court on Thursday upheld a five-year prison sentence for a woman who was convicted of illegally voting even though she didn’t know she was ineligible when she went to the polls in 2016.
What We Know:
- The punishment for the Fort Worth woman, Crystal Mason, stirred national outrage because its severity and prompted accusations that prosecutors were trying to intimidate Texans from voting.
- Mason is represented by the ACLU of Texas, ACLU Voting Rights Project, Texas Civil Rights Project, and her criminal defense lawyers Alison Grinter and Kim Cole. She appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas but a three-judge panel rejected her appeal.
- During Mason’s 2018 trial probation, officials testified that they never told her she could not vote, but the appeals court said that didn’t matter. Mason was guilty, the court said, because she knew she was on supervised release. “Contrary to Mason’s assertion, the fact that she did not know she was legally ineligible to vote was irrelevant to their prosecution,” Justice Wade Birdwell wrote for a three-judge panel on Texas’ second court of appeals.
- The case has already taken a significant toll on Mason, who turns 45 on Saturday. After she was arrested in 2017, the life she had been working to rebuild since getting out of Federal prison in 2015 crumbled.
- Mason lost her job, which provided the main source of income for her family, which includes three children, four of her brother’s children who she raised, and her grandchildren.
- The court’s opinion on Thursday goes further than what prosecutors argued during Mason’s trial. There, they have argued that Mason read the tiny print on an affidavit she signed before casting a provisional ballot and therefore knew she was ineligible. Mason said she never read the language and that the head election judge, who was also her neighbor, never alerted her to it. This week the court said none of that mattered.
- Thomas Buser-Clancy, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said: “We are disappointed with the decision and believe that it is wrong on the law. Crystal submitted a provisional ballot that was not counted, she did not vote illegally.”
Mason’s lawyers will ask the full appeals court to rehear the case, and then could appeal to the Texas court of criminal appeals, the highest criminal court in Texas. If Mason loses at that high court, her lawyers could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.