Remember that Minnesota Majority report (PDF) released in June? In it, the group asserted that, according to its investigation, at least a couple of hundred felons, or those on probation from felonies, illegally voted on Nov. 4, 2008.
We followed up with Deputy Hennepin County Attorney Pat Diamond Monday and learned that two convicted felons recently pleaded guilty in Hennepin County District Court to voting when they were ineligible to do so in that election. A second charge of registering to vote when they were ineligible was dropped as part of the pleas.
They each received two years of probation and three days of community service and have to pay court costs.
So far, three felons in all have pleaded guilty to voting during the 2008 election; whom they voted for and what offices they voted for are unknown, Diamond said. A fourth person’s pre-trial hearing is set for later this month.
These violators came to the attention of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office from election officials, not from Minnesota Majority.
The more county officials investigate, the more difficult it is to prove that alleged felons voted, and — more importantly — that these folks who had lost their right to vote knew they were ineligible to vote when they did vote, Diamond told MinnPost.
Probation officers don’t always inform people that a loss of voting rights is part of being a convicted felon, and probation databases aren’t always up to date.
Diamond said he received 451 names from the Minnesota Majority. It was determined that 235 of those didn’t have a felony conviction or weren’t on felony probation on Election Day. That left 216 names to investigate, and that pile is being processed.
One typical case: A woman in Scott County was cited as a possible ineligible voter by Minnesota Majority. But, it turns out, there is a different woman with the same name who voted. The voter has even, on a few occasions, been mistakenly arrested for being the other woman.
Those sorts of “details” are the stuff of police work that must be completed before an alleged ineligible voter is brought to trial.
Thus, it’s not that easy to nail down these 2008 cases, although recent legislation will make it easier for the Secretary of State’s Office to match up voter registrations with Bureau of Criminal Apprehension data.
“People need to understand this: You can’t skip proof here,” said Diamond. “If a person wants their trial, there’s a 12-person jury, they have the right to remain silent and the state needs to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.”
Databases need to match. Birthdays need to match. And the alleged perpetrator needed to have been told that they weren’t eligible to vote. The fact that a convicted felon voted or a felon on probation voted “doesn’t necessarily amount to a prosecutable crime,” Diamond said.
Still, he and county attorney investigators are still wading through more than 200 of Minnesota Majority’s names. Interviews are under way. Paper work is being collected. He expects the process will be completed by the end of October.
We’ll check back again with him to see where it all led.