Judicial authorities in Texas breathed new life into the case of a grandmother was sent to prison over casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election. On Wednesday the Texas Court of Appeals said it would consider an appeal filed by Crystal Mason.
Mason became an important figure in the fight for voter education and criminal justice reform when she was sentenced to five years in prison in 2018. Throughout her case Mason has maintained she was unaware of a state mandate that barred persons with convictions from voting.
“She’s absolutely buoyed,” Mason’s attorney Alison Grinter told NBC News. “Her family is just over the moon today that she literally lives to fight another day.”
Mason was out on supervised parole in 2016 when she stood in line to submit a provisional ballot in the 2016 election. But because of her prior 2011 tax fraud conviction, Mason was not allowed to vote in the state of Texas. Mason filled out a ballot with the help of a poll worker, but election officials later discounted her ballot due to the state mandate.
Provisional ballots are routinely used by voter’s whose eligibility is in question, according to the Texas Tribune. In Tarrant County where Mason resides, 4,500 provisional ballots were cast in 2016, and 3,990 were rejected — but Mason wound up being criminalized.
In court Tarrant County prosecutors argued that Mason knowingly signed an affidavit informing voters of the consequences if they had a prior conviction. However, Mason said that she did not pay read that portion of the affidavit because the poll worker had helped her fill out the required forms.
A trial court judge agreed with prosecutors and convicted her of illegally voting, a second-degree state felony. In March 2020, a state appellate court upheld the conviction. She served in prison until she was released to a halfway house in May 2020.
In December, Mason’s legal team, which includes lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Texas Civil Rights Project, filed an appeal.
They argue that because Mason did not know she was prohibited from voting and used a provisional ballot, it does not warrant the same offense as committing voter fraud.
According to Texas.gov, a person convicted of a felony has their rights automatically restored after their sentence has been fully discharged or pardoned, but many people who have served time for felony convictions are unclear on whether they fall under those categories.
“It’s really important to her that people not see her story and get discouraged from going to the ballot box, because she feels like that’s exactly what the Tarrant County district attorney wants to have happen,” Ginter said.