A 43-year-old African-American woman was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday for casting an illegal vote in 2016. This tragically wrong story is brought to us by Texas lawmakers, who have passed some of the nation's most punishing voter fraud laws despite having provided no proof that it’s a widespread and serious problem. Instead they are clinging to individual cases like that of Crystal Mason, who had just finished serving nearly three years in federal prison for tax evasion and was on community supervision when she unwittingly violated her probation by casting a vote in the 2016 election. Her lawyer, J. Warren St. John, said she had no idea she was committing a crime.
No one, including her probation officer, St. John said, ever told her that being a felon on supervision meant she couldn’t vote under Texas law. [...]
As she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at the time she was indicted: “You think I would jeopardize my freedom? You honestly think I would ever want to leave my babies again? That was the hardest thing in my life to deal with. Who would — as a mother, as a provider — leave their kids over voting?” [...]
“She voted in good faith. She showed who she was. Everything was truthful,” St. John said.
St. John has already appealed the ruling, but it's not the first time a Texas judge has gone ballistic over what could understandably be an honest mistake.
In February 2017, another woman in Tarrant County, a Mexican national with a green card, was sentenced to eight years in prison after falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen on her ballot. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Rosa Maria Ortega, a mother of four, testified that she had confused the difference between rights granted to legal permanent resident and to a U.S. citizen, which a jury did not buy. She had voted as a Republican in elections in 2012 and 2014.
In both cases, these women claimed they were confused and conceivably could have been confused about their legal rights and restrictions. But they were shown neither compassion nor the benefit of the doubt by judge and jury.
And then there was the case of a woman in Catawba County, North Carolina, who also claimed she didn't know what she was doing when she cast two votes for Donald Trump—one for herself and one for her mother, a fervent Trump supporter who had recently passed away. That state prosecutor decided not to bring charges last year.