Texas’ highest criminal court on Wednesday (May 11) ordered a lower appeals court to take another look at its controversial decision to uphold Crystal Mason’s voter fraud conviction, The New York Times reports. The ruling creates the possibility that the lower court will now overturn the conviction.
In 2018, Mason was convicted of illegal voting and sentenced to five years in prison. Her offense was casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 general election while on supervised release from prison on federal tax evasion charges.
Mason’s attorney has argued that she didn’t know at the time that it was illegal for a felon on probation to vote under Texas law.
But the lower appeals court in 2020 upheld the conviction, ruling that Mason’s ignorance of the law “was irrelevant to her prosecution,” as the Times reported, quoting the lower court’s decision.
NPR reported the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that stated the lower court made a mistake by "failing to require proof that [Mason] had actual knowledge that it was a crime for her to vote while on supervised release.”
In a statement sent to BET.com, Mason, who is free on bond, reiterated that she was unaware of her ineligibility to vote and applauded the decision, adding that, “it is very unfortunate that I have had to wait for years for the Second Court of Appeals to accurately interpret something that has been in black and white on the books as Texas law.”
Mason’s attorney, Kim T. Cole, said she’s pleased with the high court’s ruling.
“Texas law is clear and unequivocal,” Cole stated. “Texas voting law specifically states, ‘A person commits an offense if the person votes or attempts to vote in an election in which the person knows the person is not eligible to vote.’”
Voting rights advocates condemned Mason’s conviction as a case of bias based on race and prior conviction.
“She’s being made an example, and the example is that you don’t want returning citizens, Black people, Black women to vote. That’s an egregious narrative, and we have to push back on that because that’s not how democracy works,” Celina Stewart, chief counsel at the League of Women Voters, told the Times in 2021.
The case now goes to the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth for a re-examination of the evidence.