Texas mother who faced 5 years in prison has illegal voting conviction reversed | CNN

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A Texas mother who was sentenced to five years in prison for voting illegally in the 2016 election said she is “overjoyed” after her conviction was reversed Thursday by the Texas Second Court of Appeals.

Crystal Mason, a Black mother of three, was on supervised release after serving time for tax fraud when she filled out a provisional ballot in the 2016 election. She said she did not know her status as a felon on release made her ineligible to cast a ballot.

“After considering the dispositive issue remanded to us––whether the evidence was sufficient to support Crystal Mason’s conviction for illegal voting under the Texas Election Code––we reverse the trial court’s judgment and render judgment acquitting her,” the court said in its opinion.

Mason celebrated the court’s decision, which she has been waiting for since 2019, when she appealed her five-year sentence.

“I am overjoyed to see my faith rewarded today,” Mason said in a statement shared by ACLU of Texas. “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.”

After Mason was convicted, voting rights activists compared her case to other voter fraud convictions involving White defendants who received more lenient sentences.

The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office told CNN in 2019 that it should have been clear Mason was ineligible to vote, citing a letter sent to her home after her conviction and a written warning on the provisional ballot.

Mason told CNN that one letter was sent to her home during the time she was incarcerated, so she never received it. The other notice was a written warning which was on the side of the ballot she filled out in 2016, which she said she didn’t notice as she was focused on filling out the other information on the form.

The court concluded that the evidence presented in the 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.”

“In the end, the State’s primary evidence was that Mason read the words on the affidavit. But even if she had read them, they are not sufficient––even in the context of the rest of the evidence in this case––to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she actually knew that being on supervised release after having served her entire federal sentence of incarceration made her ineligible to vote by casting a provisional ballot when she did so,” to the court said in its opinion.

CNN has reached out to the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which helped represent Mason, called the decision a victory.

“The court’s move to reverse the conviction shows that nobody should face conviction or prison time for at worst an unintentional mistake made while trying to exercise their civic duty,” the ACLU said in its statement.

“Crystal Mason has bravely fought this grave injustice for years now. No one should be forced to endure what she has, and Crystal’s victory today is an inspiration and cause for celebration,” Sophia Lin Lakin, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project said.

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