A Texas woman tried to cast a ballot in the 2016 election, but she didn’t know that she wasn’t eligible to vote and her ballot was tossed out.
But despite her vote not being counted, it led to a five-year prison sentence, which is still stuck in the appeals process five years later.
In November 2016, Crystal Mason, a 46-year-old mother of three, went to the same voting location that she had gone to in 2012, where she tried to vote but was told her name wasn’t on the voter rolls.
After a suggestion from a poll worker, Mason filled out a provisional ballot.
“Maybe my name must have come off of something,” Mason told ABC News. “That's all I could think of. You don’t think, ‘Hey, you’re doing something wrong.’”
But since she was still on supervised release after leaving prison after serving almost three years on a tax fraud conviction, she was breaking Texas law by trying to vote.
She said she was never informed of the law, but a judge still ruled that she had to serve another 10 months in prison because she violated the terms of her supervised release.
“The 10 months that I did was harder than the two and a half, three years that I did,” Mason later said. “Because, you know, you’re somewhere you [aren’t] supposed to be.”
According to the Brennan Centre for Justice, 14 states have passed 22 bills that restricted access to voting during the last year.
Until May, Senate Bill 7 was moving through the Texas legislature. If passed, it would be one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country.
Republicans claim that the bill is about election integrity and preventing fraud. But, according to The Washington Post, between 2015 and 2020, 44.1 million votes were cast in the state in presidential and gubernatorial races and for constitutional measures. And only 197 complaints of election fraud were filed.
During the 2020 election, only 23 complaints were sent in. But the office of the Texas Attorney General, Republican Ken Paxton, still put more than 22,000 hours into finding fraud cases last year. They closed 16 minor cases around the Houston area, The Post reported.
“It’s not making it harder for people to vote, it is making it easier for people to vote, but harder for people to cheat,” Texas GOP chairman Allen West told ABC News concerning Senate Bill 7.
“I want everyone to know, do not let my story discourage you from the polls,” Mason told ABC. “Because you know why? The prosecutor who [did] this to me ... was an elected official. The judge, an elected official. The DA, an elected official. You get what I’m saying?”