- Associated Press - Saturday, March 31, 2018

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - A Texas woman was sentenced to five years in prison for voting in the 2016 presidential election when she was ineligible because she was on probation.

Crystal Mason, 43, will appeal the punishment handed down this past week in Fort Worth, according to her attorney. Mason is a former tax preparer who was previously convicted in 2012 on charges related to inflating refunds for clients.

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 . She told the newspaper last year 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.

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Mason’s illegal voting case was prosecuted in Tarrant County, the same place where a Mexican national last year was sentenced to eight years in prison over illegal voting. Voting illegally in Texas is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Mason used a provisional ballot to vote, and it was not counted. She has said that she believes she was being targeted for prosecution because she voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump for president. Tarrant County leans Republican.

Mason’s attorney, J. Warren St. John, did not immediately return a phone message Saturday.

Voter fraud convictions are rare, but Texas Republicans leaders have zealously pursued a crackdown on illegal voting in recent years. A federal judge has twice blocked Texas’ voter ID law, including a revised version last year that was backed by the Trump administration.

At the time of the 2016 election, Mason was on probation after pleading guilty to defrauding the federal government in 2011. She served nearly three years in prison on a five-year sentence. After her prison release, she was put on a three-year term of supervised release. She also had to pay $4.2 million in restitution, according to court documents.

Mason testified that when she voted in November 2016, she signed a provisional ballot affidavit stating that she had not been convicted of a felony. Prosecutors said she signed the form with the intent to vote illegally, but Mason’s attorney called it a mistake.

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