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Texas Court Acquits Mom Given 5 Years' Jail Time For Voting Error

Crystal Mason, the Texas mother of three who faced a prison sentence for voting illegally in the 2016 election, was acquitted Thursday by a state appeals court six years after a trial resulted in a guilty verdict.

Mason had remained free on bond while her appeal was pending.

The American Civil Liberties Union took up her case after prosecutors charged her for casting a ballot while on three-year supervised release from prison, which rendered her unable to vote legally in Texas. She had previously served five years for federal tax evasion.

Mason’s vote, by a provisional ballot, was not counted.

Because Mason is Black, the charges were seen by critics as an intimidation tactic against voters of color, and ignited debate over sometimes confusing voter eligibility laws.

Her conviction hinged on a statement she signed stating that she had completed all terms of incarceration, parole, supervision or probation. But Mason said she did not fully read it before signing. She was found guilty by a trial court in 2018 and sentenced to five years in prison, and has been fighting the conviction since then.

The Texas appeals court ultimately decided that there was not enough evidence to prove Mason knew she was not eligible to vote yet did so anyway.

“We conclude that the quantum of the evidence presented in this case is insufficient to support the conclusion that Mason actually realized that she voted knowing that she was ineligible to do so and, therefore, insufficient to support her conviction for illegal voting,” the court said in its opinion.

“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. I’ve cried and prayed every night for over six years straight that I would remain a free Black woman.”

Christina Beeler, a voting rights attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project who was involved with the case, said in a statement that Mason “was unfairly targeted because of bad faith actors in this state who are determined to use every tool at their disposal to attempt to intimidate voters, especially Black and Brown voters, but that approach will not work here in Texas.”

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