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Mentally Incapacitated Persons Vulnerable to Vote Fraud Abuse, Study Finds
Friday, 18 November 2011 00:00

Group Home Residents Deemed Incapable of Voting by Courts Were Brought to Vote by Caregivers

 

 

Group Home Residents Deemed Incapable of Voting by Courts Were Brought to Vote by Caregivers

St. Paul – Minnesota Majority and the Minnesota Freedom Council today released a joint paper concluding that mentally incapacitated individuals under guardianships voted while legally ineligible to do so in Minnesota’s 2010 general election.

Attention was first drawn to the problem when Monty Jensen observed a group of mentally incapacitated residents of Clark Lake Groups Homes voting under the direction of their caregivers at the Crow Wing County Courthouse in October, 2010. Feeling that something wasn’t right, Jensen contacted the Minnesota Freedom Council, Minnesota Majority and filed an affidavit describing what he saw with the county attorney, Don Ryan, triggering an investigation.

A recent grand jury probe into the incident hasn’t produced any criminal indictments, but the Minnesota Freedom Council has unearthed conclusive evidence that several wards deemed by the courts to be incapable of exercising the right to vote were brought to vote by their caregivers in the 2010 general election.

When Al Stene learned that his mentally incapacitated son James was brought to vote without his knowledge, he was upset and he removed James from the group home. “It is apparent to me that James was exploited by these individuals by bringing him to vote,” he said.

James suffered a traumatic brain injury from nearly drowning while rescuing his sister when he was 12 years old. Asked by a reporter who he voted for, James responded, “Gerald Ford,” but he also said he hadn’t wanted to vote at all.

Freedom Council president, Ron Kaus is a friend of the Stenes and has been at the center of a swirl of controversy in Brainerd since Jensen first reported the voting by wards residing at Clark Lake Homes. “It just makes my heart sick,” Kaus said, “but getting to the bottom of this and finding a way to correct it keeps me going.”

“This situation is particularly troublesome,” said Minnesota Majority president Jeff Davis. “Families are trusting group home operators to appropriately care for their loved ones. Now we find some are bringing ineligible wards into the polling place. The caregivers should know better than that.”

The state constitution prohibits voting by anyone under a guardianship, but a 2003 statutory change asserting that wards retain the right to vote unless specifically ordered otherwise by a judge confuses the matter. Jeff Davis said he thinks that contributed to the problem. “That new statute clearly contradicts the constitution,” he said. “Same day voter registration is also to blame,” he explained. “There’s no mechanism to verify eligibility for people who register and vote on the same day.”

The joint report recommends 3 reforms to protect vulnerable adults and the electorate from errors and abuse, including repeal of the 2003 statutory change, eligibility verification at the polling place and new requirements for caregivers.

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Download the full report here



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