Crystal Mason will return to prison for violating the terms of her probation when she cast a ballot in the 2016 election. While Mason used her real name and identification, her criminal record made voting a crime in Texas. Mason, a 43-year-old black woman, had been on supervised release after serving part of sentence for tax fraud when she went to the poll. 

Having already spent time serving a sentence, Mason was asked by CBS News whether  persons like herself should be able to vote if she feels like it. She said, "We should. We pay taxes... and that's what I believed. If I had a doubt in any way I wouldn't have done it."

Mason's case has drawn national attention because of the harsh punishment that is being meted out to her. Mason’s attorney told HuffPost in March that she had not been informed upon release from prison that she was not authorized to vote. The attorney argued that it made no sense otherwise for Mason to risk going to prison in order to vote. Mason got a job with the state of Texas and attended beauty school during her probation.

“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,” Mason said in March, according to the Star-Telegram.

Mason is scheduled to surrender to custody on Sept. 13. 

In the Lone Star State, felons are not authorized to vote until completing the entirety of their sentence. Mason is now facing five years in state prison for voter fraud. In addition, she was given 10 months in federal prison for violating the terms of her prison-release agreement. She returns to prison in September.

6.1 million felons in the United States face restrictions with regard to voting. Of these, 500,000 of them are in Texas. In thirteen states, convicted felons lose the right to vote indefinitely.  Voting laws prohibiting felons from the ballot box date to the 1870s and make the U.S. one of the few countries that prohibit voting by felons.

In Florida, the ban against voting by felons is facing a challenge in a ballot measure that will appear before voters in November. Some 1 million people will recover their right to vote.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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