Sunday, July 11, 2021

Texas, Giving Florida a Run for Its Money

I've heard it said many times that Texas is the hardest state to vote in. I don't know if this is true or not (since there are many states where it is hard to vote), but clearly it's one where it's hard to vote, and Republicans are currently trying to make it harder.

Intimidating people into fearing whether they have the right to vote, or about making mistakes in voting, is part of it.

You probably know of Crystal Mason, the Black Texas woman who voted in 2016 while out on parole without realizing she wasn't supposed to. She got five more years in prison for that mistake, even though her vote was not counted. Her ballot was only a provisional one, which means it was being held aside until it was okayed. 

I have often seen Mason's case compared to that of a white Pennsylvania Republican who intentionally cast a ballot for his dead mother in favor of Donald Trump in 2020. Did he get any prison time? No, of course not: he got five years' probation.

But, I thought, well, that's Pennsylvania rather than Texas, so it's not entirely fair. These are state laws.

Well, now we have a perfect case for comparison within Texas. Not only Crystal Mason from 2016, but also Hervis Rogers, a Black man who voted in the March 2020 primary when he was a few months shy of ending his parole period, again without realizing that he was not supposed to vote yet. Not to mention that in a number of other states would have been allowed to. 

Rogers's voter registration was okayed, since Texas does nothing to prevent that, which also seems... wrong. He cast a ballot, after waiting in line for six hours (!), which is probably what drew attention to him. And now he has been charged — in an adjacent, much whiter county, rather than his own county — with voter fraud and had to make $100,000 bail, since obviously he is a threat to the community and a flight risk with all of his deep pocketed-assets (that's sarcasm, in case you can't tell). 

Meanwhile, we have a Texas Republican former justice of the peace, Tommy Ramirez, who faces more than a dozen counts of voter fraud from the 2018 election and who was let out on his own recognizance. 

So in Texas, if you're a Republican who commits voter fraud on purpose, you get to obfuscate and stay out of jail while awaiting trial on your own recognizance and maybe eventually get a slap on the wrist, but if you're Black and make a mistake, you get high bail and sentenced to years in prison. 

To clarify, it appears the crime in Texas is to "knowingly" vote while still under sentence for a felony (i.e., while on parole). I wonder how that works with these two cases, where there doesn't appear to be any evidence that either Mason or Rogers knew they were ineligible to vote? I also learned that the sentencing guideline is two to 20 years for the "crime," which is not a crime in 20 other states. Up to 20 years!

I'm ashamed to admit that voting after release on parole is not allowed in Minnesota. It was part of a bill under consideration in this year's legislative session, but was removed by... you guessed it... Republicans.


Here's more info on Crystal Mason's current status that I learned from the Texas Tribune story linked above about Hervis Rogers:

Mason was sentenced to five years but was released on parole. Her case is before a Texas appeals court on several questions, including whether Mason should have been convicted given the evidence that she didn’t know she was ineligible to vote and whether she even voted illegally given that she cast a provisional ballot that was discarded after officials discovered she was not registered.

As a result of her prosecution, Mason nearly lost her home to foreclosure, and her son lost his football scholarship to college. She initially declared that she would never vote again. But she has since become an outspoken advocate for voting rights after concluding that this is what Texas Republicans want — for voters of color like her to be afraid to vote.


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