Crystal Mason served five years in prison for tax fraud and is currently on supervised release. In November 2016, she cast her vote in the 2016 election in Tarrant County, Texas, only to discover she had committed a second-degree felony as Texas prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from voting. They can vote once they have completely finished their sentence, which includes probation, parole, and supervised release. On Wednesday, March 28, Mason discovered just how serious her crime was when state District Judge Ruben Gonzalez sentenced her to yet another five years in prison, this time for illegally voting.
Though the 43-year-old Mason claims she did not know she was ineligible to vote and her attorney, J. Warren St. John, said no one ever told her she wasn’t eligible, the provisional ballot Mason filled out in November 2016 includes an affidavit that indicates people on supervised release can’t vote. Mason is currently out of jail on a $20,000 bond, and her attorney plans to appeal her conviction. St. John said that his client had gone to the same polling place where she had always voted and had used her driver’s license and her address, which indicates she had no intention of defrauding the state of Texas. The attorney added that there was no evidence his client had read the notation on the provisional ballot that indicated felons on supervised release are barred from voting until their sentence is complete.
Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson took a different stance, calling this a matter of personal responsibility. She said Mason made the choice to vote even though there were safeguards in place to keep her from illegally voting.
“She signed and affirmed a document which clearly stated that (1) she was prohibited from voting due to her status as a convicted felon still serving her term of supervision, and (2) she would be committing a second degree felony if she lied about her status. The judge found her guilty of illegal voting beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge set her sentence after hearing all the facts of the case.”
Mason isn’t the first Tarrant County resident to face criminal charges for fraudulent voting. In 2017, Rosa Maria Ortega, who is a legal immigrant and a mother of four, was sentenced to eight years for illegally voting in the 2012 general election and the 2014 Republican primary. As a permanent resident, Ortega did not have the right to vote as the law only allows U.S. citizens to vote. Ortega’s lawyer, Clark Birdsall, said the voter registration form confused his client as it did not have an option for her to indicate she was a permanent resident, so when she filled out the form, she checked the only box available which was U.S. citizen. Ortega also faces possible deportation after she completes her sentence.