A Texas woman, previously convicted of felony tax fraud, said she had no idea she voted illegally when she cast her ballot in the 2016 presidential election. Now, she faces five years behind bars for voter fraud.
“I had no idea that me being on probation at the time that I couldn’t vote,” said Crystal Mason, 43, on Tuesday. She held a press conference to speak out against the lengthy five year jail sentence that state District Judge Ruben Gonzales handed her on March 28.
In Texas, convicted felons may not vote until they complete their full sentences. That includes time spent on supervised release or probation.
Mason already spent nearly three years in prison for committing felony tax fraud in 2011. She was under federal supervision at the time of the 2016 election. Mason told the court she went to vote at her usual polling place and learned her name was not on the voter rolls. Poll workers gave her a provisional ballot, given her eligibility to vote was questioned.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Gonzalez asked why she did not thoroughly read the paperwork that came with the ballot. He pointed out that she had to sign an affidavit, a legal document, to obtain the ballot. Apparently, it stated a convicted felon still serving time, including parole or probation, could not vote.
Mason said she did not read the documents carefully because an election official helped her. She claimed, however, she was never told by the court, her supervision officer, the election workers, or the federal judge who sentenced her in the tax fraud case that she could not vote until she finished serving her complete sentence.
She believes officials need to educate people placed on parole or probation about voting laws, adding that sacrificing more of her freedom was not something she would knowingly do, especially after serving time for tax fraud. Mason explained she was doing everything to turn her life around. She is the mother of two children and has two young grandchildren. She graduated from beauty school and was working.
Mason was indicted in March 2017. At that time, she said she believed she was targeted by prosecutors because she voted for Hillary Clinton and her case came at a time when voter fraud drew national attention, according to the Star-Telegram.
On Tuesday, Mason’s civil attorney Kim T. Cole alleged the punishment was racially motivated, claiming, “Tarrant County bills itself as being the reddest urban county in the country.”
Southern Methodist University Political Science Professor Cal Jillson felt Mason made a honest mistake and voted “without malice and without an attempt to defraud.” He told KDFW Mason should not have voted. He thought a five-year sentence was harsh, though, and suggested instead a penalty or reprimand.
Mason is the second person recently convicted in Tarrant County for voting illegally. Last year, a judge sentenced Rosa Maria Ortega to serve eight years in prison. The Mexican national falsely claimed U.S. citizenship and voted as a Republican at least five times between 2004 and 2014 in Dallas County elections. During her trial, Ortega said she thought she was an American citizen when, in fact, she was a U.S. resident.
For now, Mason is free on bond, pending an appeal of her sentence.
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