On September 10, 2019, The League of Women Voters of Texas was proud to continue supporting Crystal Mason-Hobbs in the appeal of her conviction for illegal voting, as Crystal’s attorneys, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Texas Civil Rights Project, Alison Grinter, and Kim Cole, argued the case before the Fort Worth Court of Appeals. An audio recording of the hearing is available here.
Crystal submitted a provisional ballot in the 2016 presidential election, believing that she was eligible to vote in Tarrant County. She believed that her voting rights had been restored when she completed the entire term of her incarceration a few months prior to the election and was subject only to federal supervised release. Election officials rejected her provisional ballot, and the ballot was never counted in any election result. The Tarrant County District Attorney’s office prosecuted her anyway, and she was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for illegal voting.
At the hearing, Crystal’s attorneys argued that (1) Crystal did not “vote” within the meaning of Texas’s illegal voting statute because she submitted a provisional ballot that was rejected; (2) the conviction conflicts with the Help America Vote Act, a federal law which requires that all states permit any individual who believes he or she is eligible to vote to cast a provisional ballot; and (3) Crystal did not know that the State considered her ineligible to vote, which is required by the illegal voting statute. The appellate court justices were active and engaged in the arguments and asked questions of both sides.
The League of Women Voters of Texas joined the fight against Crystal’s conviction by filing an amicus brief in support of her appeal, arguing that her conviction was not supported by Texas law, was unconstitutional, and will discourage citizens from voting in elections. The amicus brief is available here. The Houston Chronicle also published an opinion piece written by the League of Women Voters of Texas concerning this case. The opinion piece is available here. We are hopeful that the Fort Worth Court of Appeals will reverse and order a judgment of acquittal for Crystal. No Texan should be sent to jail for experiencing genuine misunderstanding around what should be treated as a basic right.