The land of the free where all citizens aren’t equal (ODT)
Fort Worth is suffering a crisis of democracy – just 6% of electors voted in the last midterms – so why is it aggressively pursuing those who mistakenly cast ballots?
Crystal Mason, who is facing five years in Texas prisons because she mistakenly cast a provisional ballot when she was not allowed to do so.
Crystal Mason, who is facing five years in Texas prisons because she mistakenly cast a provisional ballot when she was not allowed to do so. Photograph: Ed Pilkington for the Guardian
When Crystal Mason appears in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, this week she has been warned by her lawyers to be prepared for the worst. Pack a bag, they told her, talk to your children, be ready to go to prison.
As the clock ticks down to her court hearing on 30 August, she finds herself unable to take that advice. “No, I’m not prepared! I can’t go to prison. I’m not leaving my kids,” she said.
Mason, a 43-year-old mother of three, has been sentenced to five years in Texas state penitentiary – with extra time pending in federal lock-up. All because she committed the crime of voting.
On 8 November 2016, as the world waited with bated breath for the outcome of the Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton election, she walked to her local Fort Worth polling station to perform her civic duty as a US citizen. To her surprise, her name wasn’t registered on the voting rolls, so she cast a provisional ballot pending further checks.
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In the small print of the form it read: “I understand that it is a felony of the 2nd degree to vote in an election for which I know I am not eligible.” She didn’t read those words, focused as she was on correctly entering her personal details.