Did you know voting while you're on probation is illegal? Well, the particulars of the law varies from state to state, but if you're convicted of a crime you forfeit your right to participating in America's great Democratic process.
This bit of information is probably something Crystal Mason wish she would've known before voting in the 2016 Presidential Election.
She plead guilty in 2012 to inflating tax return figures for her clients and served in a federal prison for doing so. Which just goes to show that the only thing you should worry about is messing with the IRS, I mean, you'll only get three months in jail for being caught raping a girl behind a dumpster if you're Brock Turner, wonder what'll happen to him if he gets audited years from now and the numbers don't match up?
After serving nearly 3 years in Prison, Mason was put on probation. She claims she didn't know that voting while on probation was illegal, and decided to participate in the 2016 election after her mother urged her to do so. A decision that may end up giving her another 5 years in prison.
The 43-year-old Texas woman is just one of some 500,000 citizens of the Lone Star state who had their voting rights revoked, and over 6 million nationwide who can no longer vote due to felony convictions.
Mason's attorney says that they plan to appeal the verdict, and when Mason testified before the court, she said that an election worker assisted her in filling out a provisional ballot and that her vote may or may not be counted in the election.
“She’d only recently been released from prison for a 2012 tax fraud conviction [for] inflating returns for her clients… [she says] no one told her being a felon on supervision meant she couldn’t vote. Now, she’s going back to prison — for five years.” https://t.co/7nlFf32X1Z— Depose the Boy King ☀️ (@stoptheboyking) March 30, 2018
She was ultimately arrested in February of 2017 while visiting her probation supervision officer. Mason insists that had she known voting was illegal and would violate her parole and risk her freedom, she would've never done it.
Mason's pleas fell on deaf ears to the judge, who said that Mason should've known better because it indicates right on the form that she's not allowed to vote, being on probation and all.
A Texas woman was sentenced to five years in prison because she voted while she was on supervised release. The woman said she wasn't paying attention and didn't realize she couldn't vote. A judge said she should have known better because it says she can't vote on this form. pic.twitter.com/I4RDvQ209S— Sam Levine (@srl) March 29, 2018
There are few arguing that the legality of Crystal's ability to vote - but rather that the sentencing for her deciding to vote was too harsh.
Especially because, even if she gets the all-clear, Mason refuses to ever vote again.
In case you're wondering why anyone would impose such a harsh sentence on such a petty mistake:— Crisis Actor on Infinite Earths (@artboiled) March 30, 2018
“I don’t think I’ll ever vote again,” she told the news outlet after her indictment. “That’s being honest. I’ll never vote again.” https://t.co/0xTEFrQYxZ
The Sentencing Project claims that little is being done to instruct convicted criminals about their voting rights, and that the legalities and punishments surrounding those who have spent time in the prison system are murky at best.
"There is a great deal of misinformation even among elections officials in every state. People are assured that they have the right to vote by elections officials and often they are operating on erroneous information.” - Marc Mauer.
Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project says he's studied this issue for some 20 years and that these policies directly affect voter turnout in African-American communities.
"These policies particularly impact African-American communities because of the high rate they are supervised in the criminal justice system. African-Americans are disenfranchised at an average of four times the rate of others in nearly every state. People who have voted illegally can be prosecuted but there needs to be perspective. It’s not as though there is massive voting fraud going on and the courts need to be punitive."
Then, there's the issue of other, intentional, clear-cut cases of voter fraud. Like this white woman who pretended to be her dead mother so she could cast two votes for Trump. Guess how many years she was sentenced to? If your answer was anything less than zero, well, you're wrong.
In NC, a woman pretended to be her dead mother so she could vote for trump twice. The DA didn’t even charge her, citing “compassion.” Meanwhile, this black woman is going to prison for 5 years for a mistake. It’s never been about voter fraud. https://t.co/V2D851YDFB— josie duffy rice (@jduffyrice) March 30, 2018
One Twitter user broke down how rare illegal voting is and that people found guilty of it are just usually unsure of what their state's voting laws are.
2) A 2014 Iowa investigation found just 117 illegal votes and charged 27 people, most of whom were confused about voting laws— Sarah Smith (@sarahesmith23) March 29, 2018
Others were just shocked that Mason received such a hefty prison sentence.
She should've just written a dead relative's name on the ballot, then she should've been fine, right? (h/t washingtonpost)