Crystal Mason cast her vote in the 2016 presidential election just like millions of other Americans—but unlike millions of other Americans, the Texas woman was a convicted felon, and on Wednesday she was sentenced to five years for that vote in Tarrant County. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports Mason, now 43, was on supervised release after three years in federal prison for tax fraud when she went to her polling place and found her name missing from voter rolls. She was given a provisional ballot, plus an affidavit to sign that noted convicted felons must have completed their full sentences, including supervised release. That affidavit should've been a "stop sign in front of her face," a prosecutor says, per the Dallas Morning News.
But J. Warren St. John, Mason's attorney, says she was never told she couldn't vote and hadn't read the affidavit closely because an elections official was helping her. "Why would she risk going back to prison for something that is not going to change her life?" he says. Mason says she hadn't even wanted to vote, but her mom had talked her into it, per the Washington Post. Sentencing Project chief Marc Mauer tells the Star-Telegram there's a "great deal of misinformation" among states on the complex laws surrounding voting protocol for felons, and that black felons are disproportionately disenfranchised compared with others. He also says there needs to be "perspective" when courts dole out punishments in such cases. As for Mason, "I don't think I'll ever vote again," she told the Star-Telegram after being indicted last year. St. John says an appeal has been filed. (Read more voting stories.)