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Judge hands ‘horrifying’ 5-year prison sentence to black woman for the crime of voting

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Highlighting in the most “horrifying” and “insane” manner the way that many states disenfranchise convicted or former felons, a Texas judge is sending a woman to jail for five years for unknowingly casting an illegal vote in the 2016 election when she was on probation.

Crystal Mason, a 43-year-old mother of two, finished serving a three-year sentence in 2016 for tax fraud, shortly before the presidential election. She was living under community supervision on Election Day, and authorities including her probation officer hadn’t told her that she was not legally allowed to vote.

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“They tell you certain things like you can’t be around a felon, you can’t have a gun. No one actually said, ‘Hey, you can’t vote this year,'” Mason told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram when she was indicted earlier this month.

A judge in Tarrant County, Texas, would not be swayed by Mason’s explanation that when she arrived at her polling place, an election worker was helping her with a provisional ballot so she didn’t carefully read the fine print at the top. The print stated that former felons must complete their probation before they can vote in Texas.

“You think I would jeopardize my freedom? You honestly think I would ever want to leave my babies again? That was the hardest thing in my life to deal with,” Mason told the Star-Telegram. “Who would—as a mother, as a provider—leave their kids over voting?”.

Mason is the second person in just over a year who has been sentenced to several years in prison over inadvertent illegal voting. Rosa Maria Ortega was given an eight-year sentence last year after she voted in 2012 and 2014, also in Tarrant County. She told a judge that she hadn’t realized she couldn’t vote as a legal permanent resident.

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Ryan Cooper, national correspondent for The Week, compared the case of Mason, a black woman, with that of a white woman in Iowa who deliberately tried to cast two votes for President Donald Trump.

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Trump and other Republicans have aggressively pushed a false narrative about rampant in-person voter fraud, despite the fact that such cases are extremely rare. Cases of votes cast by people who are not U.S. citizens made up less than .0002 percent of votes analyzed by the Brennan Center for Justice in a 2007 nationwide study.

Mason’s attorney is planning to appeal the judge’s sentence.

This article was originally published at Common Dreams 

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Republicans accused of stifling sexual misconduct claim against Brett Kavanaugh during confirmation

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A new report reveals that Deborah Ramirez, a woman who claims Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while she was a student at Yale University, may have had evidence to corroborate her story — but that Republicans created a process which would stifle her account so that Kavanaugh could be confirmed.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Deborah Ramirez, who alleged that she was assaulted by Kavanaugh at a Yale party when she was an underclassman, had her legal team provide the F.B.I. with a list of at least 25 people who could have had evidence to corroborate her story, but the bureau ultimately interviewed none of them, according to The New York Times. The publication also learned that many of the individuals who could have corroborated Ramirez's story attempted to reach the F.B.I. on their own but were unable to do so.

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Why is billionaire Tom Steyer running for president — as an enemy of big corporations?

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Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has become a late arrival in the field of Democratic presidential candidates, provides anti-Trump voters with an interesting challenge. His critique of wealth sometimes sounds like Bernie Sanders, but he is by far the richest person in the race (even if you include Donald Trump).

This article first appeared in Salon.

When I interviewed  Steyer earlier this year, he said he had no interest in running for president and was instead focused on funding a campaign to impeach President Donald Trump. He has obviously changed his mind — and while still far behind the leading candidates in the polls, has now qualified for the October Democratic debates, even though he wasn't on stage for the debate held in Houston last week.

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GOP plan to cut Social Security to offset paid parental leave would weaken retirement security

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Two recently introduced bills allowing workers to trade part of their future Social Security retirement benefits for parental leave benefits after the birth or adoption of a child would undercut Social Security’s benefits and structure, weakening the retirement security it offers workers. The United States needs paid leave, but it should not be financed by cutting Social Security benefits.

At some point in their lives, most workers in the United States will experience a major life event or emergency requiring them to take time off work, such as a serious illness, the birth of a child, or caregiving responsibilities for an aging parent. A national, comprehensive paid family leave policy that is responsibly financed would provide much-needed economic support to workers during these times and ensure equitable access to paid leave for low-income people and people of color, who often do not have significant paid leave from their employers.

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