Crystal Mason, sentenced to five years in prison for casting an illegal ballot, had her appeal denied by a Texas judge last week.
The Texas Tribune reports, on Thursday, a three-judge appellate panel affirmed Mason’s conviction for casting an illegal ballot in the 2016 presidential election. Mason, who was on probation for a federal conviction related to tax fraud, wasn’t aware that Texas state law prohibited her from voting. On the advice of a poll worker, Mason cast a provisional ballot; a method of voting used when there are questions about a person’s voting eligibility.
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Mason’s vote was never counted, but she was still found guilty—and given a hefty sentence—for casting that ballot. But according to the appellate judges, even if she was specifically never told about her voting eligibility, knowing that she was on probation should have been enough to discourage her from going to the voting booth that day.
“The fact that she did not know she was legally ineligible to vote was irrelevant to her prosecution,” Justice Wade Birdwell wrote on behalf of the court. “The State needed only to prove that she voted while knowing of the existence of the condition that made her ineligible.”
Mason has become a voting rights advocate in recent years following the controversial conviction, which was handed down in 2017. The simple mistake upended Mason’s life.
According to the Guardian, “After she was arrested in 2017, the life she had been working to rebuild since getting out of federal prison in 2015 crumbled. She lost her job, which provided the main source of income for her family, which includes three children, four of her brother’s children who she raised, and her grandchildren.”
In a statement released Friday by her lawyers and shared by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Mason said she believed, with the help of her family and God, that “right will prevail.”
“A punishment of five years in jail for doing what I thought was my civic duty, and just as I was getting my family’s life together, is not simply unfair,” she wrote, “it’s a tragedy.”