Accidentally Voted Twice
Minnesota is adamant about prosecuting voter fraud. So adamant, in fact, that they are prosecuting an elderly woman, Margaret Schneider, for voter fraud after she accidentally voted twice. Schneider, who is 86, has Parkinson’s disease with dementia. She has been charged with a felony because she voted twice during the 2012 primary election- once in person and once by absentee ballot.
After Schneider spoke to St. Peter police detective Travis Sandland, she realized that she did, indeed, vote twice. She sent in her absentee ballot on 13 July and then walked to her polling place on 14 August. She has stated that “It had been awhile and I didn’t even remember. I was shocked to death because I thought my absentee ballot was for the president.”
Normally, her daughter, Eva Moore, drives her to her polling place, but because of the nice weather and the close proximity of the polling place, Schneider decided to walk. Moore even signed Schneider’s absentee ballot as a witness.
The report from Detective Sandland noted that there were two letters- “A.B.” next to Schneider’s name in the voter roster book, and that indicates that Schneider should not have been allowed to vote. Moore wonders why the election judge didn’t stop Schneider at that point. She stated “That’s what I told Travis when he told us about this. Who is in the wrong? The election judges for not checking or my mom?”
Sounds like a major snafu on the part of the election judge. Schneider agrees that the judge is in part responsible stating “I think if I’m convicted, they should be convicted too. They knew I had voted already, so they shouldn’t have let me vote.”
Unfortunately for Schneider, the Nicollet County attorney Michelle Zehnder Fischer noted that, if a crime may have been committed, even accidentally, she is required to investigate and prosecute. She stated “Normally in criminal cases we have the ability to use discretion.” If she doesn’t prosecute, she stated, she would forfeit her office.
Moore did note that Detective Sandland and the other investigators tried everything, including going through statutes dating back to the 1800′s, so as not to charge Schneider with fraud. Moore noted that Sandland “was very polite about it. He said he was sorry.”
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s director of government affairs Beth Fraser did confirm to reporters that Fischer’s description of the voter fraud law was accurate.
Beth Fraser, director of government affairs for Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, said Fischer’s description of the voter fraud law is accurate. However, bills are moving through the state Assembly to give prosecutors some latitude with regards to these cases.
The fact that Schneider was allowed to vote twice is worrying to Fraser. She noted that “The election judges are supposed to see that and stop her. That’s why it’s there.”
Schneider is due to make her first appearance in court on 2 April, and will not have an attorney present noting “I don’t need one. I did my civic duty. I’ve always voted. I have ever since I’ve been old enough. It was a mistake. I didn’t realize I had voted absentee until this all came out. It’s driving me crazy. I just wish it was all over with.”
Moore will be driving her mother to the courthouse, though, noting that “I have to take her, of course, and she’ll be shaking like a leaf. It’s going to driver her nuts. I hope she doesn’t pass out. I think it’s kind of silly. There are a lot worse things to worry about out there. That’s just my opinion.”
With luck, the judge or the jury will decide that the entire voter fraud incident was accidental, and was the fault of the election judge and not Schneider. As anyone who lives with a Parkinson’s with dementia sufferer can aver, it is easy for them to get confused.