Friday, September 21, 2018

Double standard: Texas judge who sentenced woman to prison for voting also violated election laws

Crystal Mason, a 43-year-old mother of three, made headlines in March when she was sentenced to five years in prison for voting. Because of that conviction, on Aug. 30 a federal judge found her in violation of the terms of her supervised release and sentenced her to 10 months in prison, plus two years and two months of probation, reported The Appeal.
Mason says she didn’t know she was ineligible to vote when she cast a provisional ballot in Fort Worth, Texas, in the November 2016 presidential election. But she was on supervised release after a federal prison term for tax fraud, making her vote illegal. She found out three months later, when she was arrested for it.
“They tell you certain things like you can’t be around a felon, you can’t have a gun,” she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last year. “No one actually said, ‘Hey, you can’t vote this year.’”
The original case against Mason was brought by Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson in February 2017. But critics say it was not only unduly harsh—it was also hypocritical. Wilson, a Republican, has been far more lenient in handling an election-related forgery case involving a Republican justice of the peace, they point out. And she also committed an election-related impropriety of her own in 2016: asking her staff for personal contact information and then using it to solicit them for funds for her re-election.
Legal experts are mixed over whether that was a criminal offense, and a special prosecutor declined to pursue action against her. But Grant Hayden, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, said it’s unfair for Wilson to hold voters like Mason accountable for not knowing election rules and then claiming not to know rules herself. “Yeah, it looks like a double standard on its face,” Hayden told The Appeal. “And that’s a problem.”
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