Texas woman jailed for five years for voting while on probation

- A North Texas woman was sentenced to five years in prison for voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election.

The fraud charge stemmed from a tax preparation business Mason and her ex-husband, Sanford Taylor Hobbs III, owned and operated in Everman in which they submitted inflated tax refunds to the Internal Revenue Service on behalf of clients.

She was ordered to pay more than $4.2 million in restitution.

She testified that she didn't know people convicted of felonies can't vote until they complete their sentence, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

But Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson said in a statement that despite "multiple safeguards in place", Mason "still made that choice". She contends that she was never informed of the state's voting restrictions on felons. She told the newspaper a year ago following her indictment that she had gone to vote at her mother's encouragement and wasn't told when released from federal prison that she could not cast a ballot. Mason has worked to restart her life after getting released from prison, St. John said, getting a job with the Texas Department of Transportation, then getting a degree from beauty school and becoming self-employed.

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Furthermore, voting rights can only be restored after the sentence - even under supervised release - has been completed. Why would I jeopardize that?

"In a presidential election, about 40 percent of Americans don't even vote, and here we are putting someone in prison for five years for wanting to participate in the process", Mauer said.

According to the prosecutor in the case, Mason was well aware that she was not allowed to vote in 2016. She was also sentenced to five years in prison, as well as three years of supervised release. When she arrived at the polling location her name wasn't on the list, but she was given a provisional ballot. She only voted that day because her mother wanted her to, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. "She would have never voted if she didn't know she could vote". She was convicted the following year.

Her lawyer, J. Warren St. John, was bewildered by the fact that government would think Mason was lying.

Mason was taken to jail after the conclusion of her trial on Wednesday as a chorus of small children leaving the courtroom waved and said, "Bye-bye, Big Mama". However, Texas has come under scrutiny for voter suppression against black and Latino voters.

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