Bipartisan amicus brief filed on behalf of Crystal Mason, sentenced to five years in prison for casting a provisional ballot

by | Jul 22, 2021 | Policy, Voting

A number of high-profile former state and local prosecutors, have come together to sign onto an amicus brief with the States United Democracy Center for Crystal Mason, a Black Fort Worth woman who was sentenced to five years in prison after casting a provisional ballot in 2016. Mason’s ordeal has been a talking point for House Democrats about the need for passing comprehensive voting rights legislation.

Mason’s vote in the 2016 election did not count. When she showed up at a precinct in Fort Worth to cast her ballot, her name was not on the voter roll, and she filled out a provisional ballot. Mason was unaware that she was ineligible to vote since she was under supervised release after a federal conviction.

After Mason was convicted of casting a ballot illegally, which is a second-degree felony, a trial judge in Fort Worth handed down the five-year sentence. After that initial ruling, a number of organizations, including the ACLU and the NAACP, rallied to Mason’s defense, noting that she did not intend to vote illegally.

Mason’s conviction will be heard in the Court of Criminal Appeals for the State of Texas. In the introduction of the amicus brief, the former prosecutors argue that the five-year sentence was unduly harsh. “Ms. Mason’s prosecution was far outside the bounds of any reasonable exercise of the prosecutorial power,” they write.

The brief also outlines numerous cases of intentional voter fraud that resulted in penalties that did not include jail time. One example includes the case of a precinct chair in Fort Worth who arranged for her son to vote using her husband’s name and was sentenced to two years’ probation.

The brief also notes that Mason is the only person to be prosecuted for casting a provisional ballot in 2016 in the entire state of Texas. “She has been treated differently than every other one of the tens of thousands of Texans who were ultimately incorrect about their ability to vote in the 2016 election.”

Christine Sun, the Legal Director of the States United Democracy Center said in a statement that the broad range of prosecutors who signed on to the brief shows that Mason’s conviction is wrong. “As demonstrated by the breadth of the signers on this brief, upholding the right to vote is not a partisan issue — it is a matter of protecting and strengthening our democracy,” said Sun.

Since her conviction, Mason has been a staunch defender of voting rights. Yesterday she shared her story with House Democrats in Washington. “I just don’t want people to be scared to vote,” she told lawmakers in Washington.

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

+ posts

A longtime writer and journalist, Jessica was thrilled to join the Texas Signal where she could utilize her unique perspective on politics and culture. As the Features and Opinion Editor, she is responsible for coordinating editorials and segments from diverse authors. She is also the host of the podcast the Tex Mix, as well as the co-host for the weekly SignalCast. Jessica attended Harvard College, is a onetime fitness blogger, and has now transitioned to recreational runner (for which her joints are thankful).

Are you tired of Texas Republicans pushing big lies and trying to steal your vote? So are we, that’s why we’re fighting back against the right-wing lie machine. Our commitment to ethical, fact-based journalism is vital to our democracy, and we can’t do it without you. Consider donating today to help us stay in this fight.

Continue Reading

Supreme Court Declares War on Environment

Supreme Court Declares War on Environment

To cap off what is possibly the most right-wing judicial term in over a century, the highest court in the land has dealt yet another massive blow to the progression of common-sense liberal governance. In today’s ruling in the case West Virginia v. EPA, Chief Justice...

Liberal Justices Protect Texas Veterans From Right-Wing

Liberal Justices Protect Texas Veterans From Right-Wing

In a rare good ruling from the nation’s highest judicial body, the Supreme Court issued a June 29 ruling in the case of Torres v. Texas that protects veterans from discrimination by state governments and retains legal liability for those same administrations. Military...

Op-ed: Abortion is Inextricable From Voting Rights

Op-ed: Abortion is Inextricable From Voting Rights

From the moment I saw that positive pregnancy test, I knew that I didn’t want to be pregnant. I was a senior in a typical Texas high school, working a part time job at my local McDonalds, who, up to that point, was told how to act, think and believe. But at that...