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Opinion |  Crystal Mason was sentenced to five years behind bars for voting

You will not understand how Ms. Mason was treated. After her conviction to vote, a federal judge found that she had violated the conditions of her supervised release and sentenced her to an additional 10 months behind bars. This punishment, which she began serving in December 2018, earned her no credit for her five-year sentence.

Ms. Mason has continued to fight her case, but so far she has lost every step of the way. In March 2020, a panel of three judges from a state appeals court dismissed his challenge to his sentence. The court ruled that she had broken the law simply by trying to vote knowing she was on probation. It didn’t matter if she knew that Texas banned people from voting under this circumstance.

This appears to be a clearly flawed application of Texas Election Law, which criminalizes voting only for people who know they are not eligible, and not those who, like Ms. Mason, mistakenly believe they are. It’s like Ms. Mason asked a police officer what the local speed limit was, and he said, “It beats me. Why don’t you start driving and see if we stop you? “

Last week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest court for criminal matters, agreed to rule on Ms Mason’s appeal. This is his last chance to avoid jail for voting. Throwing out her conviction would bring a small measure of justice to a woman whose punishment should have been limited, at most, to not being able to vote.

But that wouldn’t give her back the last four years of fear and uncertainty she endured for no reason. Ms Mason’s first grandchild was born a few months ago, another reminder of how much she would miss if she lost the call and ended up behind bars. “It’s very upsetting to wake up every day knowing that jail is at stake, trying to keep the smile on your face in front of your kids and you don’t know the outcome,” Ms Mason told The Times in a report. interview. . “Your future is in someone else’s hands because of a simple mistake.”

Identifying errors like these is the whole point of offering provisional ballots: the crazy quilt of voting rules and regulations Americans face from state to state can trip even voters. knowledgeable people, and honest mistakes are common. In suing Ms. Mason, one of more than 44,000 Texans whose 2016 provisional ballot was ruled ineligible, the state says you attempt to participate in democracy at your peril.

This risk is almost always higher for people of color. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton likes to brag about the 155 people his office has successfully prosecuted for electoral fraud over the past 16 years – an average of less than 10 a year. What he doesn’t say out loud is what The Houston Chronicle found in an analysis of the cases he pursued: nearly three-quarters involved black or Latino defendants, and nearly half involved women of color, like Mrs. Mason.

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