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