Crystal Mason, Texas Woman Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Illegal Voting, Files Appeal to Have Conviction Overturned

Crystal Mason has said she cast her ballot — which, like most provisional ballots, was ultimately not counted — on the advice of a poll worker. (Credit: Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune)

A Fort Worth woman jailed for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 presidential election while on supervised release for a federal conviction is asking the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to overturn her conviction on illegal voting charges, according to legal documents filed Monday.

Crystal Mason said she cast her ballot — which, like most provisional ballots, was ultimately not counted — on the advice of a poll worker. Mason told the court during her trial and appeals that she did not realize she was ineligible to vote under Texas law, which required her to first complete her sentence on a federal tax fraud conviction.

The request for review by the state’s highest criminal court was filed by Mason’s attorneys as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the national ACLU and the Texas Civil Rights Project.

“Crystal Mason never wanted to be a voting rights advocate,” said Alison Grinter, criminal defense attorney for Mason, in a statement released by ACLU Texas. “She never wanted to be on the news or have her name become a rallying point in a politically divisive battle. Hers is a textbook case for why provisional ballots were created and why they must not be criminalized. Crystal’s fight is a fight for every Texan.”

Her legal team argues that Mason did not intend to vote illegally and that the provisional ballot is specifically for voters with questions about ineligibility.

They also point out that her vote was never counted and that an appellate court should not have upheld her conviction earlier this year after acknowledging that she was unclear on the law, a decision they say conflicts with the Federal Help America Vote Act.

“Like her, thousands of voters cast provisional ballots during every federal election,” said Emma Hilbert, attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project. “Criminalizing those actions jeopardizes our democratic values and risks silencing the voices of voters across this state and nation.”

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SOURCE: Texas Tribune, Karen Brooks Harper