A woman in Texas was sentenced Wednesday to a five-year prison term for voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election while on supervised release for a tax fraud conviction. Crystal Mason, 43, testified in court that she did not know that she was ineligible to vote due to her 2011 fraud conviction before casting a provisional ballot in the presidential election. In Texas, knowingly voting illegally is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Convicted felons lose their voting rights in Texas until they complete their full sentences, including parole and probation. Mason’s lawyer argued at Wednesday’s hearing: “She was never told that she couldn’t vote, and she voted in good faith.” During her voter fraud trial, she acknowledged having signed a document at the polling station that asks voters whether they have a felony conviction and if they have completed their sentence, including supervised release. But she testified in court she did not notice that part because an election worker was helping her with the ballot.Mason’s probation officer also told the court he had not advised her she was ineligible to vote. Mason had pleaded guilty in 2011 to inflating tax returns while working as a tax preparer and was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison, according to her attorney. She had served roughly three years before being released in 2016. Mason is not the first to receive a severe sentence for voting illegally. A Texas resident and Mexican citizen with a green card, Rosa Maria Ortega, was sentenced to eight years in prison for casting an illegal ballot. Ortega had even served as a poll worker, and she, too, reportedly said she did not know she couldn’t vote. Ortega will be deported after serving her sentence. Still, not everyone gets hard time. A North Carolina prosecutor declined to bring charges against a woman who said she cast an illegal vote for Donald Trump in order to fulfill her mother’s dying wish. Mason is appealing the judge’s ruling, and out on bond pending that appeal.
Update: Mason lost that appeal and spent several months in a federal penitentiary. The decision to prosecute Mason was unusual. Since 2014, at least 12,668 people have voted using a provisional ballot in Tarrant county where she was charged and 88% of them have been rejected because the voter was not eligible. Mason is the only voter who used a provisional ballot who was prosecuted for illegal voting.