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Texas woman sentenced to five years for trying to vote gets new appeal

Crystal Mason says she did not know she was ineligible, and with a poll worker's help cast a provisional ballot, which ultimately was never counted.
She was convicted of illegal voting, but that?s not why she might be going to prison
Crystal Mason, middle, convicted for illegal voting and sentenced to five years in prison, sitting at the defense table at Tim Curry Justice Center in Fort Worth, Texas on May 25, 2018.Max Faulkner / Fort Worth Star-Telegram via Getty Images file

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said Wednesday that it will consider an appeal from Crystal Mason, a Texas woman sentenced to five years behind bars for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election.

“She’s absolutely buoyed,” attorney Alison Grinter told NBC News on Wednesday. “Her family is just over the moon today that she literally lives to fight another day.”

She said the appeal is Mason's last chance at staying out of prison; she is currently out on an appeal bond.

Mason was on supervised release from prison in 2016 when she went to the polls. She wasn't on the voter rolls, and instead cast a provisional ballot with the help of a poll worker. Local officials determined she was ineligible due to her 2011 tax fraud conviction, and her ballot was not counted. Prosecutors later charged her with knowingly voting illegally.

Texas' ballot asks voters to certify that they have completed any felony sentences — including supervision — to vote. Mason testified in court that she did not know she was ineligible and did not read the fine print because an election worker was helping her with the provisional ballot.

The case made headlines in 2018 and critics have argued the the sentence was unfair. Mason, a mother and grandmother, has become a face of voter suppression as a casualty of GOP's war on voter fraud, which occurs only very rarely in American elections and sometimes by mistake.

She is represented by a team that includes the American Civil Liberties Union and Texas Civil Rights Project. Grinter said they are arguing that Mason is not guilty because she did not know she was prohibited from voting, and that since her provisional ballot was not counted, it is not the same thing as a vote under the law.

Since her arrest, Grinter said Mason has become a "tireless" voting rights advocate.

"It’s really important to her that people not see her story and get discouraged from going to the ballot box, because she feels like that’s exactly what the Tarrant County district attorney wants to have happen," she said.