Texas’ highest criminal court on Wednesday ordered that a lower court take another look at the controversial case against Crystal Mason, a Texas woman who was convicted of voting illegally during the 2016 election.
At the time Mason voted, she was on supervised release from prison after serving time on federal tax evasion charges.
Alison Grinter Allen, Mason’s attorney, has said Mason had no idea she couldn’t vote because she technically hadn’t finished her sentence. Mason wasn’t on the voter rolls at the time, so she voted using a provisional ballot — which eventually wasn’t counted.
But in 2018, Mason was convicted of illegal voting, which was a second-degree felony at the time, and was sentenced to five years of confinement. She’s currently out on bond.
According to the ruling Wednesday from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, when a lower court upheld that conviction, it made a mistake by “failing to require proof that [Mason] had actual knowledge that it was a crime for her to vote while on supervised release.”
Tommy Buser-Clancy, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, said in an interview that the court clarified that Texas law says the state “has to show that the person knew that they were ineligible to vote” when they cast a ballot.
“What this decision says is that innocent mistakes can’t be prosecuted,” Buser-Clancy said.
The case now returns to the court of appeals, where it is directed to take up this case with this new guidance from the higher court.