One Texas woman, Crystal Mason, faces a 5-year jail sentence for voting while on community supervision. Although Mason is pleading ignorance, many are going further, calling her sentencing discriminatory and unjust.
The 43-year-old former tax preparer who voted in the 2016 election says she didn’t even plan on voting until her mother encouraged her to do so. Per Texas law, she was not eligible to vote as she was still on community supervision at the time of the election. But her attorney said that no one, including her probation officer, ever told her that being a felon on supervision meant that she could not vote under Texas law.
Mason, who was indicted on the charge of illegal voting in Tarrant County, Tex., last year and found guilty by State District Judge Ruben Gonzalez on Thursday, said she would have never done it had she known.
Mason was only recently released from federal prison for a 2012 tax fraud conviction, having pleaded guilty to inflating returns for her clients.
She told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram the following at the time she was indicted, “You think I would jeopardize my freedom? You honestly think I would ever want to leave my babies again? That was the hardest thing in my life to deal with. Who would — as a mother, as a provider — leave their kids over voting?”
Some say that this is another case of Texas’s zealous crackdown on voter fraud, a problem that state GOP leaders have said is “rampant” though the evidence is hard to find.
In a 2016 ruling on Texas’s stringent voter ID law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit found that there had only been two convictions for in-person voter fraud out of 20 million ballots cast in the years before the 2011 passage of the law.
Others argue that Mason’s sentencing is extreme and biased because of her race. Correspondent Reid Wilson tweeted the following:
NC white woman who admitted voter fraud: No charges.
CO white man convicted of voter fraud: Probation, comm service.
IA white woman convicted of voter fraud: Probation, $750 fine.
TX black woman convicted of voter fraud: 5 years IN PRISON.
Which of these is not like the other?
— Reid Wilson (@PoliticsReid) March 31, 2018
The case of the North Carolina white woman who admitted to voter fraud is especially striking. The woman, whose name was withheld by the District Attorney, cast an illegal vote for Donald Trump last year to fulfill her mother’s dying wish but was not charged because she thought she decided to cast the ballot in her mother’s name, the attorney says she cast her vote “out of sheer ignorance” of the law and while “grieving the loss of her mother.”
Mason can appeal this sentencing but Pursuant to Section 11.002 of Texas Election Code (the “Code”) a person is immediately eligible to register to voice “once a felon has successfully completed his or her punishment, including any term of incarceration, parole, supervision, period of probation, or has been pardoned.” Would her appeal be successful given lenient sentencing in other cases of “ignorant” voter fraud?