Bruce Bartman went to Pennsylvania’s voter registration website in late summer 2020 and registered his mother and mother-in-law to vote. Both of the women had died.
Bartman, who is white, requested a mail-in ballot for his late mother and cast her vote for Donald Trump a few months later. In December of that year, Bartman was arrested and charged with perjury and illegal voting. He pled guilty months later, acknowledged making a “dumb mistake,” received a five-year probationary term, and was forbidden from serving on a jury or voting for four years.
Trump supporter Bruce Bartman pled guilty to using his dead mother’s license to fill out an absentee ballot in her name. Here’s the voter fraud Republicans keep talking about but conservative media won’t touch this with a 10 foot pole. Fox News? OAN? Newsmax? Ben Shapiro? No one? pic.twitter.com/zwFsFoF5mc
— Fifty Shades of Whey (@davenewworld_2) May 2, 2021
“There’s not public benefit to him being incarcerated,” Jack Stollsteimer, the local district attorney said at the time. “This defendant from the beginning has accepted responsibility for his actions, and he has paid the price for them.”
Nearly 1,000 miles away in Memphis, a Black Lives Matter activist called Pamela Moses was facing her own election-related criminal charges when Bartman pleaded guilty. Moses, a Black guy, had lost his right to vote after committing a felony a few years before. However, no one had officially removed Moses from the voter records or informed her that she was ineligible to vote. When state officials started looking into her eligibility in 2019, a probation officer wrote a certificate stating that Moses had served her term and was now eligible to vote. As a result, she applied to do so. Moses was indicted despite correctional authorities admitting they made a mistake.
BREAKING: Pamela Moses, a Black woman who was sentenced to six years in prison for a voting error, will now get a new trial. Ms. Moses has been incarcerated since December but is finally being released. https://t.co/kxUnAMdRNI
— Legal Defense Fund (@NAACP_LDF) February 25, 2022
In November, Moses was found guilty by a jury. She was sentenced to six years and one day in prison in late January.
Her punishment drew great national attention due to its severity – it is one of the worst for an election-related offense in recent memory. Last week, a judge ordered a fresh trial for Moses after weeks of outrage and the admission of new evidence published by the Guardian.
Despite the unexpected reversal, the case highlighted what many experts regard as a double standard in the US criminal justice system: white individuals receive comparatively mild punishment for purposeful fraud, while Black people face harsher punishment for unintentional voting errors.
Prosecutors sentenced Pamela Moses to prison for 6 years for “tricking” a probation office into letting her vote.
— Andrew Fleischman (@ASFleischman) February 25, 2022
There is no extensive data on voting fraud prosecutions by race. It’s also difficult to compare prosecutions across jurisdictions because a criminal sentence is influenced by a variety of circumstances, including the prosecutor’s discretion, state laws, the details of the offense, and the defendant’s criminal history. Experts, on the other hand, suggest that the examples that have gained notoriety should raise red flags.
“This [Moses] conviction has resonated across the country, the world, and it certainly has resonated in this community. I would suggest that it certainly resonated with Black women who might wonder if they’re eligible to vote in the coming elections,” said Josh Spickler, the executive director of Just City, a criminal justice non-profit in Memphis. “It is what you think it is. It is voter suppression. It is a message to consider whether you should vote or not.”
— Jeffrey Levin (@jilevin) February 26, 2022
Moses’ case drew obvious comparisons to the case of Crystal Mason, a Texas woman sentenced to five years in prison in 2016 for voting while on federal supervised release – akin to probation – for voting while on federal supervised release. Mason’s ballot was never counted, and probation authorities claimed that they never warned her she couldn’t vote, but a judge convicted her guilty of voting unlawfully regardless. The state’s highest criminal court is now hearing an appeal.
Pamela Moses, a Black woman, got 6 years in prison registering to vote as a felon. Four white individuals who are known to have committed blatant voter fraud to vote for Trump only received probation.
There are 2 criminal justice systems in America. pic.twitter.com/S98of0suBX 03
— Tomthunkit (@TomthunkitsMind) March 4, 2022
Texas authorities also arrested Hervis Rogers, a Black man, last summer for voting while on probation for a felony. Rogers, who gained national prominence after standing in line for seven hours to vote in 2020, claims he had no idea he was disqualified. His case is still continuing, and he might be sentenced to years in prison.
“What we do see is that there’s a willingness to go after people who are making, at worst, innocent mistakes. That’s not what our justice system should be about,” said Thomas Buser-Clancy, a lawyer with the Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
This content was originally published here.