A Texas woman on supervised release from a tax-fraud conviction will lose her freedom once again—this time for casting an illegal ballot in the 2016 election.
A judge handed 43-year-old Crystal Mason a five-year sentence on Wednesday for casting a ballot before completing the full term of her sentence, including the supervised release, for a 2011 conviction. But Mason says she was unaware that she wasn’t allowed to vote—and that neither a federal court nor her supervision officer nor election workers nor the judge who sentenced her in the fraud case told her that she was ineligible to vote.
As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, Mason voted through a provisional ballot after arriving at her usual polling place and finding that her name wasn’t on the voter roll.
When asked why she didn’t carefully read the form she was required to sign before receiving her provisional ballot, which included guidelines for eligible voting, Mason replied that she didn’t because an election official was helping her.
Mason, who had served just short of three years in federal prison, was convicted of filing fraudulent tax returns (the IRS estimates that 17 percent of Americans fail to comply with the tax code in some way). During cross-examination, Tarrant County, Texas, prosecutor Matt Smid suggested that she knowingly tried to cast an illegal ballot, reminding her that she had “jeopardized her freedom in the past,” according to the Star-Telegram.
But Mason insisted that she would never have voted if she had known it was illegal for her to do so.
From the Star-Telegram:
“I inflated returns,” Mason said. “I was trying to get more money back for my clients. I admitted that. I owned up to that. I took accountability for that. I would never do that again. I was happy enough to come home and see my daughter graduate. My son is about to graduate. Why would I jeopardize that? Not to vote. ... I didn’t even want to go vote.”
According to a New York Daily News video, Mason had been urged to vote by her mother.
Felony disenfranchisement happens across the U.S., but laws vary widely among states. In California and New York, for instance, people convicted of a felony can vote once their incarceration and parole have been completed. In Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, disenfranchisement ends upon a person’s release from prison. Some states, like Florida and Virginia, require individuals to petition the court to reinstate their rights. In Texas, ex-offenders are eligible to vote again after they’ve completed their sentence, parole and probation. Mason says she was unaware that her supervised release meant that she was still ineligible.
Her defense attorney, J. Warren St. John, says that an appeal has already been filed.