On Election Day 2016, Crystal Mason voted after her mother insisted on expressing her voice in the presidential election. When her name did not appear on the official ballot at the polling station in Tarrant County, Texas, she filled out the provisional ballot without any consideration.
Mason’s vote has never been officially counted or counted because she does not have the right to vote: after five years of service in tax fraud, she is under supervision and release. Nevertheless, after the state district court sentenced her to five years in prison for an illegal vote, the ballot put her in a lengthy appeal process because she had a felony probation while voting.
Mason insisted that she did not know that she was not eligible to vote.
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Mason said in a telephone interview: “It’s incredible. I wake up every day because I know that prison is coming, trying to keep a smile in front of the children, and you don’t know how it will turn out.” “Because of a simple Wrong, your future is in the hands of others.”
Her case will be heard by the Texas Supreme Court of Criminal Appeals, which is the highest state court in criminal cases, and its judges said on Wednesday that they have decided to hear the case. Mason was unsuccessful in a new trial and lost in the Court of Appeal.
The new appeal is the 46-year-old Mason’s last chance to evade the appeal so as not to go to jail. If her case is submitted to the federal court, Mason will have to appeal from the cell.
Alison Grinter, one of Mason’s lawyers, said that the federal government made it clear in the 2002 “Help the U.S. Vote Act” that provisional ballots should not be criminalized because they represent “voting Offer-they are not votes per se”.
She said that Mason did not know that he was not qualified and was still convicted. Texas’s election law states that a person must knowingly vote illegally in order to constitute a crime.
Grint said on Thursday: “Crystal never wanted to be a champion of voting rights.” “She didn’t want to be a political football here. She just wanted to be a mother and grandma to get her life on track, but she really accepted it. This job goes hand in hand with it, and she refuses to be coerced.
A spokesperson for the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office said the Tarrant County grand jury charged Mason for violating Texas election laws.
The statement said: “In this case, our office provided Mason with the option of probation, but she refused.” “Mason gave up the jury trial and chose to conduct the trial before the trial judge.”
In March 2018, Judge Ruben Gonzalez of the 432nd District Court of Texas found Mason was convicted of a second-degree felony for illegal voting.
According to Tommy Buser-Clancy, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Mason will never be convicted. He said that if someone’s qualifications are ambiguous, they can be resolved using a temporary voting system.
Speaking of Mason’s beliefs, he said: “This is very frightening. It undermines the entire purpose of the provisional voting system.”
He said that if her qualifications are incorrect, it should be the end of the story.
Joseph Fishkin, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said that the Court of Appeal’s ruling may set an important precedent for how the public understands the future of voting, especially if the public is confused about their understanding of voting. He said he hoped that the court would establish a principle so as not to “make people commit crimes because they are confused about the complexity of the interaction between the criminal law and the electoral law.”
Fishkin said that he and many other legal experts believe that if the court upholds Mason’s conviction, the state will directly conflict with the federal “Help the United States Voting Act.”
“For basic fairness and participation across the country, it is important that people have the confidence that as long as they act in good faith, and not arbitrarily, criminal proceedings will not be brought against them,” Fishkin said Thursday. “If this situation is true, it is obviously worrying, because many people may not know the details of their identities or those who are allowed to vote will be prevented from voting.”
The Sentencing Project, a research organization that specializes in crime and punishment, said that in the United States, 5.2 million Americans were unable to vote because of previous felonies.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office Ken Paxton said that since 2004, 531 election fraud counts have been prosecuted. The results of these cases are currently not available immediately. According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, at least 72% of Paxton voter fraud cases are targeted at people of color.
Mason’s career is supported by the Cato Institute, a liberal think tank. Clark Neily, senior vice president of criminal justice at the institute, said the case was an example of excessive conviction.
He said: “This puts people in a position where they can commit crimes without even knowing that they have violated any laws.”
Celina Stewart, the lead lawyer of the League of Women Voters, submitted a supporting summary on behalf of Mason. She said her case sent a “very clear message” that felony offenders should be cautious.
She said: “She is becoming a role model, and the role model is that you don’t want Muslims, blacks, black women to vote.” “This is a shocking narrative, and we must insist on this because that is not how democracy works. “
This article was originally published in The New York Times.
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