Texas Court Orders Review Of Controversial Illegal Voting Conviction Of Crystal Mason


Texas’ top criminal appeals court on Wednesday ordered a lower appeals court to review the illegal voting conviction for Crystal Mason, a Black woman who was controversially sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to vote in the 2016 presidential election despite being ineligible, in a case that’s sparked national outrage from voting rights advocates.

Key Facts

The all-Republican Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled a lower appeals court must take into consideration whether Mason knew she was legally unable to vote.

Mason’s legal team has argued she was unaware that she was ineligible to vote in 2016, while she was on supervised release following a federal tax fraud conviction.

Mason filled out a provisional ballot in the 2016 election at a Tarrant County polling site after learning she was not on the voter roll, but the ballot was rejected and Mason ultimately arrested.

Before casting the ballot, Mason signed an affidavit affirming that she had completed “any term of incarceration, parole, supervision, period of probation, or I have been pardoned” after being convicted of a felony, but Mason claims she did not read the whole document.

The lower court determined in a 2018 bench trial that signing the affidavit was sufficient grounds for a conviction, but the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday that the court “erred by concluding that her knowledge of her ineligibility to vote was irrelevant to her prosecution.”

Key Background

Mason’s conviction brought widespread condemnation from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, along with questions about whether her race played a factor in the case. Her vote also predated former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was rife with fraud, which led to a wave of Republican-led states enacting new voting restrictions. But a sweeping new set of measures Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed into law might actually end up helping Mason, since the new policy explicitly states no one can be convicted of illegally voting “solely upon the fact that the person signed a provisional ballot.” The Court of Criminal Appeals noted the language in the new law applies to “anyone who committed an offense before, on, or after the effective date of the Act, except for final convictions.” Since Mason was appealing her conviction at the time the law went into effect, December 2, the court ruled it should not be considered a final conviction.

Crucial Quote

“The amendment clarifies that a provisional ballot affidavit alone is insufficient evidence that the person knowingly committed the offense,” the Court of Criminal Appeals said of the new Texas law. “Corroboration by other evidence is required for conviction.”

Further Reading

Crystal Mason’s contentious illegal voting conviction must be reconsidered, criminal appeals court says (Texas Tribune)

Would a woman have been sentenced to prison for illegal voting if she were White? Unlikely. (Washington Post)

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicholasreimann/2022/05/11/texas-court-orders-review-of-controversial-illegal-voting-conviction-of-crystal-mason/