Texas Republicans clash over the measure to prevent innocent mistakes from being prosecuted as election fraud

The Texas Senate is arguing with a bipartisan overnight incorporation into the Republican Party’s primary election law that sought to prevent cases like that of Crystal Mason, a black woman from Fort Worth who was sentenced to five years in prison for voting illegally, though he has said he did not know he was not eligible to vote and the ballot never counted.

Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said Friday in a tweet that the amendment was his “only objection” to the bill, which would otherwise have been on its way to the governor’s table.

Instead, he will now address a committee of members of each chamber that will negotiate their differences and present a new final bill. Hughes did not respond to any requests for comment.

The amendment was written by Rep. Briscoe Cain, a Deer Park Republican who had been working on it for months with Rep. John Bucy III, an Austin Democrat. The author of the House, Rep. Andrew Murr, of R-Junction, passed the amendment on Thursday, which passed without debate.

Cain could not be reached on Friday, but said Thursday in an interview that he was proposing it because “it’s the right thing to do.”

“We just make things clear to make sure that innocent mistakes don’t affect people’s ability to vote,” Cain said.

Mason was on supervised release – after serving five years in federal prison for tax fraud – when he attempted to vote in 2016. Texas law prohibits criminals from voting while on parole, on parole or under supervision.

He said he did not know he was not eligible when he filled out and signed an affidavit to get his provisional ballot. However, she was sentenced to five years in state prison and had to serve an additional ten months in federal prison.

Mason is at large pending his appeal, which is currently before the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court.

Cain is the chairman of the House election committee, which managed the election bill, which was passed in favor of a new super-committee convened to give way to most priority laws during special sessions. He had done several mistakes as chairman that had hampered the progress of the bill in the spring, including a procedural error that forced the committee to send hundreds of statewide witnesses home without testifying.

Although Texas law states that a voter must know when he or she is not eligible to vote, the amendment would revise that language to clarify that a person must be aware of the “particular circumstances that make the person ineligible.” and also that “this these circumstances make the person ineligible” to be charged criminally.If approved, the language would be retroactive and could affect Mason’s case.

The Fort Worth Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling against Mason arguing that even if Mason did not know he could not vote, he knew he was on federal supervised release.

The amendment could also affect the case of Hervis Rogers, a Houston black man who was arrested this July on charges of illegally voting in last year’s Democratic primary while on parole. Rogers had reached the national headlines to wait six hours in line to vote.

Democrats immediately reacted angrily to Hughes’ opposition to the bipartisan amendment.

“Cruelty is the point,” D-Driftwood rep Erin Zwiener repeated.

taylor.goldenstein@chron.com