Grandmother’s Voting Error Conviction and 5-Year Sentence Tossed by Texas Appeals Court 

By The Vanguard Staff

AUSTIN, TX — Crystal Mason, a Black grandmother and mother of three, was acquitted late last week by the Texas Second Court of Appeals, when it reversed Mason’s conviction—Mason had faced five years in prison for submitting a provisional ballot in 2016 that was never counted as a vote, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

This is a victory for Mason, said the ACLU, noting Mason’s “life was upended by the state’s aggressive charges. She was convicted of illegal voting despite believing she was fulfilling her civic duty and not realizing the state considered her ineligible to vote.”

The state appeals court decision came six years after a trial resulted in a guilty verdict. Mason had remained free on bond while her appeal was pending.

“The ACLU took up her case after prosecutors charged her for casting a ballot while on three-year supervised release from prison, which rendered her unable to vote legally in Texas. She had previously served five years for federal tax evasion,” wrote the Huffington Post.

Because Mason is Black, the charges “were seen by critics as an intimidation tactic against voters of color, and ignited debate over sometimes confusing voter eligibility laws,” the HuffPost added. 

The ACLU said Mason’s conviction hinged on a statement she signed stating that she had completed all terms of incarceration, parole, supervision or probation. 

But, the HuffPost wrote, Mason said she did not fully read it before signing. She was found guilty by a trial court in 2018 and sentenced to five years in prison, and has been fighting the conviction since then. 

“The Texas appeals court ultimately decided that there was not enough evidence to prove Mason knew she was not eligible to vote yet did so anyway,” noted the HufPost.

“We conclude that the quantum of the evidence presented in this case is insufficient to support the conclusion that Mason actually realized that she voted knowing that she was ineligible to do so and, therefore, insufficient to support her conviction for illegal voting,” the court said in its opinion.

“I am overjoyed to see my faith rewarded today,” Mason said in a statement. “I was thrown into this fight for voting rights and will keep swinging to ensure no one else has to face what I’ve endured for over six years, a political ploy where minority voting rights are under attack. I’ve cried and prayed every night for over six years straight that I would remain a free Black woman.”

Christina Beeler, a voting rights attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project also involved in the case, said in a statement Mason “was unfairly targeted because of bad faith actors in this state who are determined to use every tool at their disposal to attempt to intimidate voters, especially Black and Brown voters, but that approach will not work here in Texas.”

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