Here’s Why One Wrong Voting Move Can Be Catastrophic For Former Felons
Crystal Mason, a 43-year-old Texas mom, is in prison because she voted in 2016. Until a local prosecutor charged her with a crime, she had no idea she had done something illegal.
Mason voted while she was still on probation for a federal felony, which is illegal in Texas. And even though she says no one told her she was ineligible or stopped her from voting at the polls, she was still sentenced to five years in prison for voting. While Mason’s case was ongoing over the summer, a local prosecutor in North Carolina went after 12 people with felony convictions who had unknowingly illegally voted while on probation. Ultimately, many of them reached settlements with the prosecutor.
Both cases underscore just how difficult it can be for felons to figure out if they can vote once they leave prison.
Campaign Legal Center launched an online tool in August that lets people with felony convictions in each state input the circumstances of their offense and see if they’re eligible to vote. The site has had nearly 17,000 unique visitors since it launched, said Corey Goldstone, a Campaign Legal Center spokesman. Blair Bowie, an attorney at Campaign Legal Center who has worked on restoring voting rights to former felons, said state officials could be doing more to make sure people know whether they’re eligible to vote.
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