Civil rights advocates see this as a tale of two voters. Crystal Mason, who is black, was sentenced to five years in prison for casting a ballot in Tarrant County, Texas, in 2016 while being a felon under supervision. Terri Lynn Rote, who is white, was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $750 fine for trying to vote for President Trump twice in Iowa. On Monday, the judge who sentenced Mason turned down her request for a new trial. “Prison is a lot closer for her today,” Mason’s lawyer told the New York Times. Mason, 43, had been sentenced to 60 months for tax fraud. She served part of her sentence and was released in 2016. She says she didn’t know that being a felon meant she was ineligible to vote. Her name had been purged from the voter rolls, and she was given a provisional ballot, which should have alerted her to her ineligibility, the prosecutor said.
The judge had the option of sentencing Mason to anything from probation to 20 years, reported the Dallas Morning News in March. Whether a felon can vote varies by state. For example, as the New York Times notes, in Vermont, a person convicted of murder retains the right to vote, even while in prison. But in Mississippi, a conviction for perjury is enough to void the right to vote. Mason told the Star-Telegram that she was originally sent to jail for inflating returns and took responsibility for her actions. “I would never do that again. I was happy enough to come home and see my daughter graduate. My son is about to graduate. Why would I jeopardize that? Not to vote. ... I didn't even want to go vote.” Mason's attorney is appealing the decision. Mason's case is juxtaposed with Rote's in an online petition calling for charges against Mason to be dropped. (Read more vote stories.)