“Our office offered Mason the option of probation in this case, which she refused,” the statement said. “Mason waived a trial by jury and chose to proceed to trial before the trial judge.”
In March 2018, Judge Ruben Gonzalez of Texas’ 432nd District Court found Ms. Mason guilty of a second-degree felony for illegally voting.
According to Tommy Buser-Clancy, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Ms. Mason should never have never been convicted. If there is ambiguity in someone’s eligibility, the provisional ballot system is there to account for it, he said.
“That’s very scary,” he said of Ms. Mason’s conviction, “and it guts the entire purpose of the provisional ballot system.”
If her eligibility was incorrect, he said, “that should be the end of the story.”
The appeals court’s decision could set an important precedent for the future of how the public interprets voting, especially if they’re confused, according to Joseph R. Fishkin, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He said he hoped that the court establishes a principle not to “criminalize people for being confused about the complexities of the interaction between the criminal law and election law.”
Professor Fishkin said that he and many other law experts believe that if the court upholds Ms. Mason’s conviction, the state would be in direct conflict with the federal Help America Vote Act.
“It’s very important for basic fairness and for participation around the country that people are confident that when they act in good faith and aren’t trying to pull a fast one, that you’re not going to start charging them for crimes,” Professor Fishkin said Thursday. “If this case stands, that’s obviously concerning, because a lot of people who may not understand the details of their status or who is allowed to vote will be deterred from voting.”