Texas woman sentenced to 10 years in prison for voting on probation

Category:  Opinions
Friday, October 11th, 2019 at 11:07 AM
Texas woman sentenced to 10 years in prison for voting on probation by Jamie Heinrich and Abby Martinson
Graphic: Tyler Hendricks

Crystal Mason, a resident of Texas, has been sentenced to five years in prison after voting. During the 2016 elections, a teenage poll worker was unable to locate Mason’s name in the voter registration poll, which ended in the poll worker giving Mason a provisional ballot. After investigation, Mason’s vote was thrown out. 

During the same time, Mason was on supervised release after serving three years in prison for tax fraud. Mason insisted she was unaware that her voting rights were taken away up until her sentence was entirely over.  

However, the Tarrant County District Attorney, Sharen Wilson, still pursued charges after not believing Mason’s claims on her voting situation. After charges were processed and disposed of, Mason sentenced to 5 years in prison, along with 10 additional months for violating the terms of her supervised release from her tax fraud imprisonment.  

Mason is currently seeking an appeal and will be appearing in front of a panel three Texas Court of Appeal judges, who will either approve or deny her request for a new trial and chance at escaping charges.  

The entire case has many wondering if the issue at hand was more than voting technicalities, why do these voting laws exist? 

One of Mason’s lawyers, Kim Cole, said in a recently published article on Atlanta Daily World that “Crystal’s case is an effort in voter suppression. This has nothing to do with whether or not she was eligible to vote.” 

It is obvious that Mason has a long battle ahead of her as she and her lawyers try to get to the bottom of the entire situation, in the pursuit of figuring out if the convictions were fair and legal.  

Unfortunately, voter suppression is entirely still alive and is still a major issue. In fact, most voting suppression cases happen in the states of Georgia, Texas, Florida and North Dakota, according to Center For American Progress 

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the levels of voter participation by African-American, Hispanic and Asian voters all increased from 2004 to 2008, reducing the voter participation gap between minority and white voters.  

In 2004, the voter participation gap between White and African-American voters was 6.9 percent. In 2008 it was 0.9 percent. And with new voter suppression laws in effect, an estimated 5 million eligible voters could have been kept from registering and/or casting a ballot in 2012. 

According to The Washington Postsince Trump was elected an estimated 17 million people have been thrown off the voting rolls. Though some may have died or moved away, a significant portion of those were infrequent voters. Voters who are more likely to be poor, nonwhite or otherwise marginalized. 

After record voter turnout in 2008, more than 30 states introduced voter suppression legislation in 2011 and 16 states passed what are essentially voter suppression measures, such as requiring a real ID to vote and felon disenfranchisement.  

These pieces of legislation suggest an eerie call back towards Jim Crow Laws, in the 1877 these laws included requirements to pass literacy tests, nearly impossible for uneducated former slaves. Other states had instituted poll taxes, a financial burden that many poor African-American (and whites) were either unable or unwilling to pay. Some precincts even held "whites only" primaries in direct opposition to federal law according to the ACLU. 

Barriers to voter registration will make it harder for Americans to participate in our democracy. Those in favor of more voter suppression legislation argue that their measures are not about stifling voters or swinging elections, but preventing voter fraud. That’s the rationale they have used time and again to enact new restrictions on voting in the past few years, particularly after a Supreme Court ruling in 2013, Shelby County v. Holder, that weakened the Voting Rights Act. 

 However, voter fraud is extremely rare. Based on one investigation in 2012 by the News21 journalism project, there were 0.000003 alleged cases of fraud for every national general election vote cast between 2000 and part of 2012 — and as many as half of those alleged cases weren’t credible. Voter fraud is simply not a big deal in America’s electoral system.  

 The lack of even a couple thousand votes can have the power to turn around the elections of an election entirely, and Pennsylvania is a swing state. It is incredibly important that we stay mindful of voting suppression issues, in hopes that someday, each and every voice in the U.S. will be heard fairly.  

 

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