texas woman denied appeal over 5-year sentence for trying to vote

March 24, 2020
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In 2016, a Texas mother of three, Crystal Mason, submitted a provisional ballot in that year’s general election, on the advice of a poll worker. At the time, Mason was on supervised release for a previous fraud-related federal conviction. Upon waiting in line to vote at her local polling place in Tarrant County, the third-most populous county in Texas, a poll worker told Mason that she was not on the registered voter’s list. But, if she wanted, she could fill out a provisional ballot.

“He said that if I’m in the right place, my vote would count. If I’m not, it wouldn’t.” Having lived at the same house for many years, Mason did not have any reason to believe that she was at the wrong polling place, she filled out the ballot. According to Mason, at the time she was unaware that Texas considered her to be ineligible to vote because, at the time of the election, she was on supervised release. No one had told her that she wasn’t eligible to vote until the probationary period was over, which she testified to during her trial. A fact that Mason’s probation officer also testified was not part of the standard procedure of information shared.

Though her provisional ballot was ‘caught’ and never counted, Mason was arrested and charged by the state of Texas for what prosecutors allege was her knowingly violating voter laws. Ultimately, she was sentenced to five years in prison in 2018 for illegally casting the provisional ballot.

On March 19, 2020, a state appellate court declined to overturn Mason’s conviction and the remaining sentence.

“These are difficult times for me, but I have faith that with the help of my family and God, right will prevail,” Mason said in a statement released Friday by her lawyers. “A punishment of five years in jail for doing what I thought was my civic duty, and just as I was getting my family’s life together, is not simply unfair, it’s a tragedy.”


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