Texas woman’s prison sentence for attempting to vote illegally is thrown out

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A Texas appeals court tossed out a woman’s five-year prison sentence for voting illegally Thursday, ending a yearslong saga that garnered national attention.

Crystal Mason was sentenced in 2018 to five years in prison after she testified she did not know that she was ineligible to vote because she was convicted of tax fraud in 2011. She cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 presidential election with the help of a poll worker.

In Thursday’s ruling to overturn Mason’s sentence, Second District Appeals Court Justice Wade Birdwell wrote that “finding Mason to be not credible — and disbelieving her protestation of actual knowledge — does not suffice as proof of guilt.”

Mason had testified that when she was in prison, she was not informed that she could not vote upon her release, Birdwell detailed. She also “emphatically denied” having read the provisional ballot’s affirmations detailing felon voting restrictions, testifying that she did not know she was not allowed to cast a ballot because she was on supervised release from prison, according to Birdwell.

Mason’s ballot was not counted when officials determined that she was ineligible to vote because of her 2011 conviction, the ruling said.

“In the end, the State’s primary evidence was that Mason read the words on the affidavit,” Birdwell said.

“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,” he added.

The Court of Criminal Appeals announced in 2021 that it would consider an appeal from Mason, who was out of prison on an appeal bond.

Her 2018 sentence drew national attention, and critics have rallied against the lower court’s decision.

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