As Texas Republicans join Georgia Republicans in attempting to make Republicans win again (MRWA doesn’t roll off the tongue like MAGA, but whatever) by passing laws that place arbitrary roadblocks between voters and ballot boxes, one name comes to mind: Crystal Mason.
Mason was sentenced in Texas to five years in prison for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election while being on supervised release as a felon convicted of tax fraud in 2011. The trial in which Mason was convicted of voting illegally lasted one day, and despite Mason’s easily believable claim that she simply didn’t know it was illegal for her to vote, the same judge who gave her the ridiculous sentence denied her a second trial.
Fortunately, not every legal official in Texas is completely devoid of a soul, and on Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to hear Mason’s case.
From NBC News:
“She’s absolutely buoyed,” attorney Alison Grinter told NBC News on Wednesday. “Her family is just over the moon today that she literally lives to fight another day.”
She said the appeal is Mason’s last chance at staying out of prison; she is currently out on an appeal bond.
She is represented by a team that includes the American Civil Liberties Union and Texas Civil Rights Project. Grinter said they are arguing that Mason is not guilty because she did not know she was prohibited from voting, and that since her provisional ballot was not counted, it is not the same thing as a vote under the law.
Since her arrest, Grinter said Mason has become a “tireless” voting rights advocate.
“It’s really important to her that people not see her story and get discouraged from going to the ballot box, because she feels like that’s exactly what the Tarrant County district attorney wants to have happen,” she said.
Let’s be clear on one thing: If it were up to me, a felon could vote from inside their prison cell, because even inmates are affected by an elected official’s policies. But I’m aware America isn’t ready for that conversation, so I’ll just talk about how Mason’s ordeal proves two things: Our legal system has no qualms with taking a Black person’s freedom for reasons that have fuck all to do with protecting the public, and conservatives are so hellbent on keeping as few people voting as possible, that they’re fine with delivering harsh punishments to people for violating their efforts to suppress the vote.
What harm did Mason cause by attempting to vote? Even if her vote had been counted, what great danger did she pose to the general public that justifies taking her freedom for any amount of time? What difference does it make if a person who has been freed from prison votes before completing the conditions of their release? Why shouldn’t that person’s vote be worth anything?
The fact that Republicans can never answer questions like these in a comprehensible way—much like they can’t explain why they keep working so hard at combatting voter fraud that doesn’t fucking exist—reveals the oppressive nature of the policies they pretend are meant to secure elections that are already demonstrably secure.
People like Mason aren’t criminals—at least not in regard to election fraud—they are victims of what is essentially legal criminality.
Stop making laws that make it hard to vote, and there won’t be a need to lock people up for voting illegally—it’s really that simple.