Bruce Bartman, the Pennsylvania man, is White. So is Terri Lynn Rote, the Iowa woman. Crystal Mason, the Texas woman, is Black. The disparity in how these cases were handled is more than suggestive. Too often, people of color get the book thrown at them while their White counterparts get a slap on the wrist for the same or similar offense.
“I listened to too much propaganda and made a stupid mistake,” Mr. Bartman recently told the judge as he pleaded guilty to felony perjury and unlawful voting. Not only had the 70-year-old illegally used an absentee ballot he obtained in his deceased mother’s name to vote for Mr. Trump, but he also later fraudulently signed a letter claiming she was alive. “I don’t know what came over me,” Ms. Rote said. Ms. Mason also said she made a mistake but an innocent one. She hadn’t realized that because she was on federal supervised release after serving almost three years in prison for tax fraud, Texas considered her ineligible to vote. Ms. Mason’s probation officer acknowledged he had never warned her that she couldn’t vote and her provisional ballot was never counted, but that didn’t matter to Texas authorities, who pulled out all stops in prosecuting her.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has joined the legal team pursuing her ongoing appeal, has noted that the same office that prosecuted Ms. Mason’s case agreed in 2018 to a sentence of five years’ probation for a White Republican justice of the peace who had pleaded guilty to submitting fake signatures to secure a place on a primary ballot. “It was to make an example out of me,” said Ms. Mason, echoing the view that her prosecution was intended to send a message to minority voters to stay away from the polls.
There are, as the fact-checking website Snopes.com pointed out, distinctions in state laws and sentencing guidelines that may account for some of the differences in the outcomes of the cases. But we do not believe that Ms. Mason would be facing a five-year prison sentence if she were White. As Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) asked in a Facebook post, “How is this fair?”