Texas woman seeks appeal of five-year sentence after an attempt to vote as a felon

Crystal Mason says she did not know she was ineligible to vote after casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election

A Texas court will review an appeal from Crystal Mason, a woman who was given a five-year prison sentence after trying to vote as a felon in the 2016 election.

Mason’s case will now be heard by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, KDFW reports. If she loses, or if the case is moved to the federal level, Mason will have to report to prison.

“This is very overwhelming, waking up every day knowing that prison is on the line, trying to maintain a smile on your face in front of your kids and you don’t know the outcome,” Mason, 46, told the New York Times. “Your future is in someone else’s hands because of a simple error.”

Crystal Mason thegrio.com
Crystal Mason (Credit: American Civil Liberties Union /screenshot)

As stated in her appeal petition, Mason and her legal representation argue that she was not aware that she was not allowed to cast a ballot due to past legal issues. They say the state of Texas has insufficient evidence to prove otherwise, thus saying that her conviction of illegal voting is an overreach.

Prior to the November 2016 election, Mason, a resident of Tarrant County, Texas, attempted to vote while she was on supervised release. The election cycle saw businessman Donald Trump defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

When she didn’t see her name on voting rolls, she cast her vote via provisional ballot.

READ MORE: Freshman GOP congressman taken to task by CNN host over voter fraud claims

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, voters can cast provisional ballots, or “affidavit ballots,” if their name is not listed on the official voting roll or if they forget to bring identification to vote. Provisional ballots are turned in to election officials who verify the voter’s information. Once eligibility is confirmed, the vote is counted in the election tally. If not, the ballot will be tossed.

However, due to her status as a felon, Mason was ineligible to cast a vote in the state of Texas. She was later convicted of voting illegally, a second-degree felony, in a state district court and sentenced to five years in prison.

Mason has since been appealing her conviction, and is out on appeal bond. It’s her last chance to dodge prison for the incident.

According to KDFW, Mason said she did not read the side of the provisional ballot that requires signees to swear that “if a felon, I have completed all my punishment including any term of incarceration, parole, supervision, period of probation, or I have been pardoned.”

READ MORE: New GOP-led voting restrictions move forward in Texas

Mason is not the only woman to be convicted of illegal voting in Tarrant County.

The USA Today reported that Rosa Maria Ortega was convicted in 2017 for voter fraud and sentenced to eight years in prison. Ortega, who was born in Mexico, had been living in the U.S. since she was a baby and had a green card. She voted on the Republican ticket in 2012 and 2014 and was convicted for voting illegally.

Ortega said she was unaware that she was ineligible. Despite being paroled in 2019, the mother of four was detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) before being released on bond. She now faces deportation back to Mexico.

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