Black Mother Who Faced Five Years In Prison For Illegal Voting Has Conviction Overturned

Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The state appellate court in Fort Worth, Texas, has acquitted Crystal Mason of an illegal voting conviction, a decision that spares her from serving a five-year prison sentence. 

According to Judge Wade Birdwell, the state lacked sufficient evidence to prove that Mason knew she was ineligible to vote when she cast a ballot in the 2016 election, NPR reports

In a statement, the ACLU of Texas said this acquittal amounts to a “victory for Mason, a Black grandmother from Fort Worth, whose life was upended by the state’s aggressive charges.”

“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.”

Mason’s case has drawn widespread attention from media and voting rights advocates, who have criticized Texas’ stringent approach to alleged illegal voting. The state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, has spearheaded efforts to tighten election regulations, leading to concerns about disproportionately impacting minority voters and individuals who unintentionally violate voting laws.

In Mason’s situation, she voted during supervised release from prison after serving time for federal tax evasion charges, following encouragement from family members. Mason asserted that she was unaware of her ineligibility to vote and believed she had regained voting rights upon release. Notably, she cast a provisional ballot, which was ultimately not counted.

Alison Grinter Allen, Mason’s criminal defense attorney, condemned her conviction as unjust and emphasized the harm inflicted by Texas’ political prosecution.

“Crystal and her family have suffered for over six years as the target of a vanity project by Texas political leaders,” she said. “We’re happy that the court saw this for the perversion of justice that it is, but the harm that this political prosecution has done to shake Americans’ confidence in their own franchise is incalculable.”

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