No Voting for Texas Offenders

Voting Regulations for Texas Offenders

Recently a Tarrant County offender who was released early from prison on parole was sentenced to 5 years in prison for voting.

Crystal Mason was on supervised release from a three year sentence stemming from a 2011 tax fraud conviction.

Mason’s mother urged her to vote in the 2016 presidential election. Not knowing that she was doing anything wrong, she voted.

In Texas, convicted felons are prohibited from voting until they’ve completed their sentence and all parole, probation and supervised release period.

Tarrant County District Attorney prosecuted Mason for filing a fraudulent ballot which resulted in Mason receiving a five year sentence.

Mason showed up to the polling place in 2016 to cast her vote for president, but her name was not listed as a registered voter. She was given a provisional ballot, plus an affidavit to sign that noted convicted felons must have completed their full sentences, including supervised release. She reported that she didn’t read the affidavit closely because an election official was helping her complete the form and that no one told her she was not eligible to vote.

If she had known it was illegal, Crystal Mason said she would never have cast her vote.

Mason’s story is not unique.  Texas attorney general’s office and local district attorneys’ offices can and do prosecute felons who vote when they are not eligible.Each week, the Texas Department of Public Safety sends information to the Texas secretary of state about everyone who has a final conviction.  The secretary of state’s office then compares the data to all registered voters.  Matches are then sent to the counties where the people are registered to vote. 

What are the voting laws in Texas for ex-offenders?

According to the Texas Secretary of State website,  for to be eligible to vote a person must be:

  • A United States citizen;
  • Must be a resident of the Texas county in which an application for registration is made;
  • Must be at least 18 years old on Election Day;
  • Must not be declared totally mentally incapacitated by a court;
  • Must not be declared partially mentally incapacitated with the right to vote by a court; and
  • Not finally convicted of a felony, or, if so convicted must have (1) fully discharged the sentence, including any term of incarceration, parole, or supervision, or completed a period of probation ordered by any court; or (2) been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disability to vote.

This means that as long as the offender has completed the terms of the conviction including incarceration, parole, mandatory supervision or has been pardoned then that person is eligible to vote. However, the person needs to reregister to vote again after their sentence is complete.