Crystal Mason

Crystal Mason v. State of Texas

Location: Texas
Status: Closed (Judgment)
Last Update: March 28, 2024

What's at Stake

Crystal Mason thought she was performing her civic duty by filling out a provisional ballot in the 2016 election. She didn’t know it would land her a five-year prison sentence, upending her family and the life she had built. At the time, Ms. Mason was on federal supervised release, a preliminary period of freedom for individuals who have served their full time of incarceration in federal prison. Ms. Mason didn’t know, and nobody told her, that the state considered her ineligible to vote while on supervised release. Because her name didn’t appear on voter rolls, she filed a provisional ballot, consistent with federal law. The state never counted her ballot but has still sought to send her to prison for an innocent mistake.

The State of Texas prosecuted Crystal Mason for the crime of “illegal voting,” which bars someone who “votes or attempts to vote in an election in which the person knows [they are] not eligible to vote.” Ms. Mason cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 election while under federal supervised release, which Texas claims makes her ineligible to vote. Her provisional ballot was never counted, and Ms. Mason cast it on the suggestion of a pollworker. She did not know that the state considered her ineligible to vote at the time but was still convicted in March 2018 and sentenced to serve five years in state prison.

As Ms. Mason has said: “I thought I was performing my civic duty and followed the election process by filling out a provisional ballot.”

The ACLU and ACLU of Texas began representing Ms. Mason in 2019 in her appeal of her conviction along with the co-counsel the Texas Civil Rights Project, Kim T. Cole, and Alison Grinter. In March 2020, the Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas at Fort Worth affirmed Ms. Mason’s conviction. She then appealed the ruling before Texas’s highest criminal court.

In May 2022, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed that the state’s election code requires prosecutors to prove that a voter realizes they are ineligible to cast a ballot to be criminally liable for “illegal voting.” The court sent Crystal Mason’s case back to the Court of Appeals for further review and in April 2023, the Second Court of Appeals heard arguments on remand.

On March 28, 2024, the Second Court of Appeals reversed Crystal Mason’s conviction, resulting in a full acquittal. “I was thrown into this fight for voting rights and will keep fighting to ensure no one else has to face what I’ve endured for over six years,” said Ms. Mason, “a political ploy where minority rights are under attack.”

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