League of Women Voters of Texas joins case opposing criminal penalties for voter eligibility confusion

Published 8:00 am Monday, July 29, 2019

FORT WORTH, Texas — The League of Women Voters of Texas joined as amicus in Mason-Hobbs v. Texas, arguing that genuine confusion around voter eligibility does not violate Texas state law. The brief is filed in support of Ms. Mason-Hobbs, a returning citizen who was sentenced to five years in jail for voting in the 2016 presidential election. 

 “The League works hard to educate returning citizens of their rights around voting. We have seen first-hand how confusing these rules can be,” said Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas. “No Texan should be sent to jail for experiencing genuine misunderstanding around what should be treated as a basic right.” 

Mason-Hobbs believed she was eligible to vote after previously being released from prison, but her voting status was complicated by the fact that she was still on federal supervised release. Her provisional ballot was ultimately denied, and her vote did not count towards any election. 

 “In recent elections, we have seen more participation of returning citizens than ever before, yet some states have not met that momentum with education and clarity about when returning citizens are eligible to participate,” said Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “This case is an example of a citizen who was obviously unclear about an ambiguous state law and was penalized for her honest confusion.” 

The case addresses whether the state of Texas can bring criminal charges against individuals who mistakenly violate the law by casting a ballot before their rights are fully restored. The League of Women Voters of Texas is joined in the amicus brief by Texas Civil Rights Project. Mason-Hobbs v. Texas is expected to be heard by late summer.