Woman sentenced to 5 years for voter fraud gets second chance to plead her case 

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday that the case of Crystal Mason be reconsidered by a lower appeals court.

Crystal Mason, who was sentenced to five years in prison for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election while she was on supervised release from a federal conviction, will have her case heard again. 

The New York Times is reporting that The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that a lower appeals court wrongfully upheld parts of Mason’s 2018 conviction. Specifically, the Second Court of Appeals in Tarrant County said in 2020 that her unawareness that she was ineligible to vote “was irrelevant to her prosecution.” The Criminal Appeals court disagreed Wednesday, ruling that her case be reconsidered.

In this April 2018 photo, Crystal Mason speaks to the media in downtown Dallas. Mason, who was sentenced in 2018 to five years in prison for voting illegally in 2016, while she was on supervised release from a federal conviction, said she didn’t know she wasn’t allowed to vote. (Photo: Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Mason’s attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union have argued that per the Help America Vote Act of 2002, provisional ballots should not be criminalized because they did not represent an actual vote. 

Further, Mason’s lawyers have argued that state laws in Texas stipulated that knowingly voting illegally was key to being guilty of the crime. 

According to the report, Mason was advised by a poll worker that she could submit a provisional ballot in the 2016 election. However, as a felon on probation, she was ineligible to vote.

Her vote was never counted. 

“I am pleased that the court acknowledged issues with my conviction, and am ready to defend myself against these cruel charges,” said Mason in a statement. “My life has been upended for what was, at worst, an innocent misunderstanding of casting a provisional ballot that was never even counted. I have been called to this fight for voting rights and will continue to serve my community.”

“We believe that ultimately what is right will prevail and will continue to support Ms. Mason as she battles this miscarriage of justice,” said Tommy Buser-Clancy, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “Ms. Mason never would have risked her liberty by submitting a provisional ballot if she knew the State considered her ineligible to vote. She followed the rules, committed no crime, yet was slapped with an egregious 5-year sentence. We hope the court system soon will overturn this unwarranted conviction. Ms. Mason and her family have fought this for far too long.”

Mason’s conviction has been frequently referenced on social media to highlight the disparities in voter fraud cases, particularly after Republican state legislatures continue to perpetuate “The Big Lie” that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election in minority communities. 

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