Appeals court tosses voting conviction against Texas woman Crystal Mason

A state appeals court overturned a Texas woman’s illegal voting conviction Thursday after she was sentenced to five years in prison in 2018.

The acquittal from Texas’s 2nd Court of Appeals comes after years of legal battles for Crystal Mason, who drew national headlines after being handed the sentence for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 presidential election while on supervised release for federal tax evasion, according to The Texas Tribune.

The 2nd Court of Appeals agreed with the argument Mason and her lawyers had been making for years: that she did not intentionally vote illegally and was unaware of Texas voting law at the time, the Tribune reported.

The text of the statute Mason had been charged and convicted under outlines that a person “commits an offense if the person … votes or attempts to vote in an election in which the person knows the person is not eligible to vote,” according to court documents.

In the decision, the court said there was insufficient evidence “to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she actually knew” that being on supervised release even after serving the entirety of her incarceration sentence “made her ineligible to vote by casting a provisional ballot.”

It’s the second time the 2nd Court of Appeals reviewed the case — having upheld the initial conviction in March 2020. Mason then filed a petition to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and the state’s top criminal court instructed the lower appeals court to reconsider the case.

On its first review, the lower appeals court argued that a poll worker’s testimony saying he watched Mason read each line of an affidavit saying “if a felon, I have completed all my punishment including any term of incarceration, parole, supervision, period of probation, or I have been pardoned,” before signing it and casting her provisional ballot was sufficient evidence to convict her.

Despite acknowledging Mason’s assertion that she had not read that part of the affidavit and did not know she was legally ineligible to vote, the court argued that she “voted while knowing the existence of the condition that made her ineligible,” according to the March 2020 decision.

The fact she wasn’t actually aware of her ineligibility “was irrelevant to her prosecution,” the lower court had said.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in May 2022 that the lower appeals court “erred by failing to require proof that the Appellant had actual knowledge that it was a crime for her to vote while on supervised release,” according to the decision.

The top criminal appeals court for the state instructed the 2nd Court of Appeals to “evaluate the sufficiency of the evidence under the correct interpretation of the statute.”

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