AUSTIN, Texas — The Court of Criminal Appeals today granted review of the case of Crystal Mason, who was sentenced to five years in prison for filling out a provisional ballot that was never counted in the 2016 election.
Mason, a Black mother of three from Fort Worth, was convicted of illegal voting despite believing she was fulfilling her civic duty and having no idea the state considered her ineligible to vote.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the national ACLU, Texas Civil Rights Project, criminal defense attorney Alison Grinter and civil attorney Kim Cole have advocated to reverse Mason’s previous conviction and acquit her.
The Court of Criminal Appeals will review a lower court decision that found that individuals can be prosecuted for illegal voting even when they did not know they were ineligible to vote and even when their ballot was never counted.
The following are reactions to today’s court decision:
“This has been a long journey, but I never gave up faith,” said Crystal Mason, who is challenging her conviction. “I’m hopeful that the judges will understand that any Texan like me, who at most unknowingly makes an innocent mistake, should not be punished for it.”
“This decision gives Crystal Mason a chance to stay with her family and community and avoid going to jail when she did not intend to do anything wrong,” said Tommy Buser-Clancy, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “It also provides an opportunity for the court to reassure Texas voters that innocent misunderstandings in the voting process won’t land them in jail.”
“This court’s action gives us hope not just for Ms. Mason, but for the integrity of this state’s democracy,” said Emma Hilbert, staff attorney for Texas Civil Rights Project.
“Crystal never set out to be a voting rights advocate. The fact that she has found herself in the center of a very messy and very political fight over the voting rights of Texans is a sad reality, but her strength, courage, and devotion to her faith and her community has been a source of inspiration to so many people,” said Alison Grinter, criminal defense attorney. “I am overjoyed that our fight for Crystal and for the rights of Texans will continue to our highest court.”
“I am encouraged by today’s decision,” said Kim T. Cole, civil attorney for Mason. “We are one step closer to obtaining justice for Crystal Mason. She should never have been prosecuted for casting a provisional ballot in good faith. I firmly believe that, ultimately, justice will prevail.”
“We are thrilled with the court’s decision to hear Crystal Mason’s appeal. The conviction and the sentence that Crystal Mason received were unwarranted, outrageous, and grave injustices,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.
The Court of Criminal Appeals will not hear oral arguments in this case.