A district judge on Monday turned down a Texas woman’s bid for a new trial after she was sentenced to five years in prison for illegally voting in the 2016 presidential election.
Crystal Mason, 43, was still on probation when she cast her ballot nearly two years ago, The New York Times reported. She had just finished serving a three-year prison stint for tax fraud, and says she was unaware her felony conviction barred her from voting in the high-stakes election.
On March 28, Mason was convicted of illegal voting in a one-day trial and given a five-year sentence that very same day — a punishment delivered by state district court Judge Ruben Gonzalez. The mother-of-two suffered a second blow on Monday when Gonzalez denied her request for a new trial, according to the Star-Telegram.
“Prison is a lot closer for her today,” Mason’s attorney, Alison Grinter said Tuesday, adding that her client plans to appeal the judge’s decision to a higher court. “Hopefully, we will be able to get this case before fresh eyes in the appellate court and have a better outcome.” Until then, Mason will remain free on bond.
At her trial earlier this year, the Texas woman insisted no one told her she wasn’t allowed to vote in the election. She testified she was given a provisional ballot when she arrived at her designated polling location and discovered her name wasn’t listed on the voter roll.
“Crystal’s name was purged from the rolls when she went to prison, but Crystal did not know that,” Grinter told The New York Times.
Her vote was never counted.
Felony disenfranchisement laws vary from state to state but in Texas, felons can have their voting rights fully restored once they’ve completed their sentence. Mason’s supporters have since launched an Internet petition calling for all charges against her to be dropped. The e-document, which has collected well-over 38,000 signatures, compares Mason’s case to that of Terri Lynn Rote, a white woman who was found guilty of voter fraud in Iowa for trying to vote for then-candidate Donald Trump twice.
Rather than jail time, Rote was given probation and a $750 fine. Tarrant County Judge Russ Casey, who’s white, was also sentenced to probation after admitting to forging signatures to secure his spot on the primary ballot.
Despite her denial for a new trial, Mason said she’s trying to remain hopeful.
“I showed my kids that no matter what you can get out and get your life in order,” she said. “…But sometimes, regardless of whatever your past is, you are still going to be beat up for it.”