As stories of voter suppression attempts, such as in Georgia and North Dakota, continue to surface, in Fort Worth, Texas, Crystal Mason is currently serving 10 months in federal prison for voting. There’s also a possibility she could serve an additional five years for voter fraud.
Mason, the mother of three, surrendered voluntarily on Sept. 27 to authorities and was taken to federal prison.
In 2016, she was under supervised release after serving five years in prison for the non-violent crime of tax fraud. At her mother’s urging, she went to vote in the presidential election, but was not listed on the roll of registered voters. She was told to fill out a provisional ballot, and did so.
The fine print of the document stated that felons serving any part of a sentence, including supervised release, could not vote. But she wasn’t focused on reading the fine print, only filling in her information.
Mason said no one ever told her she was not allowed to vote under Texas law.
“I attempted to vote in November 2016 under the impression I had a voice, unaware that my voice had been taken away from me to cast a vote. I would never intentionally jeopardize my freedom just to vote. A mistake I made due to lack of understanding,” she wrote on a GoFundMe page.
Mason was told three months after she cast her ballot that she committed voter fraud in Tarrant County, and found guilty by a state district judge this past March.
Felon voting rights vary from state to state. For example, in Vermont and Maine felons never lose their right to vote. According to The Sentencing Project, 6 million Americans across the country are barred from voting because of felony disenfranchisement laws.
Texas is one of at least 21 states that ban felons from voting until their sentences have been fully served, including probation. The state has some of the strictest voter ID laws in the U.S.
Republican leaders in Texas claim there is a “rampant” problem with voter fraud in the state, but have yet to provide widespread proof.
A controversial voter ID law that went into affect in April was cited by civil rights advocates as discriminatory to minority voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The day before Mason was taken into custody, she posted a message on Facebook.
“This fight is not over, I’m glad God choose me for this journey,” she wrote.
She also included a mailing address for anyone who would like to write to her, and said to “VOTE Albert Roberts and Beto. Change this unjust. Victory is yet to come.”
She is currently appealing her five-year sentence.
A Change.org petition for Mason states:
“Texas resident, Crystal Mason is one of the most recent victims of voter disenfranchisement, a form of voter suppression that affects more than six million Americans.
“Without a lifting of voices and unified support for Ms. Mason and other people of color who have been targets of voter disenfranchisement, government officials will continue to silence and oppress them.”
The petition currently has more than 72,000 signatures with a goal of 75,000.
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