After being convicted of illegal voting in 2018, Crystal Mason was sentenced to five years in prison. Nearly four years later, her case is headed to an appeals court in an effort to overturn the conviction.
Mason was convicted of illegal voting because she cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 election while on supervised release from prison. She had originally served time for federal tax evasion. Her attorney argues that at the time she was unaware of the Texas law that prevented her from voting due to the previous felony charges.
During the first attempt to appeal her conviction, a lower appeals court in Texas upheld the initial ruling and noted that her claim to be unaware of the law “was irrelevant to her prosecution.”
Voting rights activists believe that the conviction was an attempt to make an example out of Mason.
“She’s being made an example, and the example is that you don’t want returning citizens, Black people, Black women to vote,” said Celina Stewart, chief counsel at the League of Women Voters in a 2021 interview with Times. “That’s an egregious narrative, and we have to push back on that because that’s not how democracy works.”
While Mason has expressed that she is pleased with the court’s decision, she reiterated that it’s been a long time coming.
“It is very unfortunate that I have had to wait for years for the Second Court of Appeals to accurately interpret something that has been in black and white on the books as Texas law,” said Mason in a statement to BET.com.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals called out the lower court of appeals for “failing to require proof that [Mason] had actual knowledge that it was a crime for her to vote while on supervised release.”
Mason’s attorney Kim T. Cole also applauded the higher court ruling.
“Texas law is clear and unequivocal,” said Cole. “Texas voting law specifically states, ‘A person commits an offense if the person votes or attempts to vote in an election in which the person knows the person is not eligible to vote.’”
Mason is currently free on bond as the case prepares to make its way to the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth where the evidence will be re-examined.