Texas’ strict voter registration deters citizens from voting due to fear of prosecution

In the 2016 presidential election, Crystal Mason cast her provisional ballot for Hillary Clinton at the recommendation of the poll worker in Tarrant County after she was not able to find her name on the register, according to The Texas Tribune. She did not read the fine print that stated convicted felons were not allowed to vote in the state of Texas. Mason was convicted of tax fraud and was out on supervised release. Her vote was rejected, and several months after she cast her vote she was arrested and prosecuted for voter fraud. She was sentenced to ten months in prison, but now she stands in front of all-Republican judges for her appeal. 

Mason’s vote was one of the 3,990 provisional ballots that were rejected in her county, yet she was the only one who was arrested. Her lawyer told the panel of judges that her case was the first instance where an individual was charged for a vote that was not accepted. Prosecutors, however, insisted that Crystal Mason cast her vote knowing that she could not vote. 

Provisional ballots were created in 2002 through the Help America Vote Act, to encourage voters to vote, even if they questioned their eligibility. This was the case for Mason. As the presidential election approaches in a year, this case looks more like an attempt at voter suppression. Mason’s prosecution serves to suppress ill-informed voters from voting in fear of legal repercussions. 

This completely overrides what the provisional ballot stands for and, with this case, it is now at risk. It is clear that Texas is trying to discourage minority voters from participating at the polls. In addition, it is important to note that Mason voted for a Democratic candidate in a red state, which is a plausible explanation as to why she was targeted by prosecutors. 

Republican states and politicians want Americans to believe that voter fraud is the true threat to our democracy, but voter fraud has a 0.0000044 percent chance of occurring, according to PBS. The real threat to our democracy is voter suppression. More than 1,000 bills have been passed to tighten voting laws since 2001. Between 2016 and 2018, 17 million voters were de-registered nationwide, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, due to strict voting regulations, and the weakening of the Voting Rights Act in the ruling Shelby County v. Holder. These laws target minorities and lower-class voters the most. 

Texas is known for their extreme gerrymandering and strict voter registration rules. Voters must show a government-issued ID, but 15 percent of Americans who earn less than $35,000 do not have a government-issued ID, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, and roughly one in four African Americans do not have a government-issued photo ID. Texas is clearly targeting minority voters and those with low income. This blatant attempt at voter suppression, particularly toward minorities like Mason, is a disgrace to our democratic ideals. 

Red states have a higher purge count than blue states, according to the Brennan Center. This should come as no surprise. Our country has never been a perfect democracy but using these tactics to limit votes is without a doubt, antiquated. That said, Mason should not be punished for the already-corrupted system.

Tanya Korichkova is an applied math major junior.