The history of the case
All three are charged with felonies. What's the story? In Two non-citizens charged with voter fraud in Austin, Minn., MinnPost readers learned of two of the three:
Two brothers in Austin, Minn., who have permanent resident status in the U.S. but aren't citizens, have been charged with voter fraud.
The felony charge is: ineligible voter who knowingly voted.
William and Braulio Manzano, who spoke to police with the help of an interpreter, had checked the box on their voter application to indicate that they were not U.S. citizens, but then filled out the rest of the application and signed a line that said they are citizens, says the Austin Daily Herald.
And they told police that they had voted in the election. . . .
Dig down into the Herald, and there's this:
Two of three Austin residents who allegedly voted illegally at Ellis Middle School on Election Day have each been charged as an ineligible voter who knowingly voted, a felony.
Brothers William and Braulio Manzano were each charged Friday, Nov. 30, in Mower County Court. According to the court complaints, the brothers each checked the boxes on their voter applications that indicate they are not U.S. citizens. However, both men continued to fill out their applications and signed the portion that indicates they are citizens who can vote and that providing false information is a felony offense punishable by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
An officer and interpreter spoke with the brothers, who both admitted they are not naturalized citizens but have permanent resident status with Minnesota identification cards.
Braulio admitted to voting, according to the court complaint, because he didn’t understand the application and didn’t know he had to be a naturalized citizen to vote. . .
The Austin Post Bulletin's Brent Boese reported in Three men charged with voter fraud in Mower County:
Three Austin men were charged Friday with voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election, which is a felony offense.
Jacob Awuol Barac and brothers William and Braulio Manzano all filled out same-day registration forms incorrectly, which slipped by election judges, before casting their ballots. All three checked the box saying they were not citizens of the United States before filling out the rest and signing the portion that says they were, in fact, U.S. citizens.
Each is facing up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
It's the first time since at least 1989 that Mower County has had issues with voter fraud, Mower County Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh said.
"The election process needs to be tightened up," Groh said Nov. 21 after the illegal ballots were discovered during the election review.
Analysis of the case
The articles spurred a couple of questions. What were the "Minnesota identification cards" the brothers held? Who checks the registration forms? Finally, if the brothers had not checked the box indicating that they weren't citizens, would they have been caught? Would those people registering before elections have their status reviewed?
Bluestem obtained copies of the criminal complaints from the Mower County Courthouse. Both complaints (50-CR-12-2859 and 50-CR-12-2860) included Defendant Fact Sheets listing the men's "Minnesota identification cards." After some checking, we confirmed that these are valid drivers' licenses, legally obtained (lawful permanent residents, while not citizens, can obtain licenses).
Note that while non-citizens, the men are authorized to live and work in the United States, not the undocumented resident that Minnesota Majority's Dan McGrath represented in a cartoon person in a mariachi costume in order to frighten the base.
Thus, this wasn't a case that requiring a state-issued photo ID to vote would have solved, unless the election officials paid more attention than they did under current law to both the registration form--and the licenses' status information. The men had valid, legal, state-issued photo id--what they didn't have in order to be eligible to vote was citizen status.
Since the information on their registration forms conflicted, the election judges ought to have caught the problem before the ballots were cast. As it is, the problem was discovered when the ballots were examined, and the men are facing the very serious consequences of their actions.
What if the men had not checked the first box? Would the felony have been detected? The answer is a qualified yes. The Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services monthly shares citizen status check information from driver’s licenses, permits and identification cards with the Secretary of State’s office’s voting database to determine if non-citizens have registered to vote (and perhaps voted).
The legislative history
In a 2010 bipartisan election reform bill that was introduced by Ryan Winkler in the House (and co-sponsored by Republicans Mary Kiffmeyer and Laura Brod), this language was added to Minnesota statute that requires comparison of electronic data on citizenship to be compared to records in the
Sec. 12. [201.158] USE OF DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY DATA.
As required by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, Public Law 107-252, the
commissioner of public safety shall make electronic data on citizenship available to the
secretary of state. The secretary of state must determine whether the data newly indicates
that any individuals who have active records in the statewide voter registration system
are not citizens. The secretary of state shall prepare a list of those voters for each county
auditor. The county auditor shall change the status of those registrants in the statewide
voter registration system to reflect that they are challenged based upon their citizenship
and must notify the county attorney.
In 2010, the secretary of state must make the determination and provide lists
to the county auditors between 30 and 60 days before the general election and again
between six and ten weeks after the election. In 2011, the secretary of state must make
this determination again as part of the annual list maintenance. By August 1, 2012, the
secretary of state must provide electronic lists to the counties at least monthly.
The bill changed state statute, though less formal measures had been tried prior to the bipartisan law's passage.
In a press release issued September 2006, Governor Tim Pawlenty Pushes Citizenship Verification and Photo Identification for Voting, a solution for verifying citizenship was proposed:
This is the process that became later became law in 2010, though prior to Pawlenty's directive, attempts were made to require that those registering to vote would have to document their citizenship.
Citizenship Verification – The Governor is directing the Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services to routinely share citizen status check information from driver’s licenses, permits and identification cards with the Secretary of State’s office’s voting database to determine possible voter fraud. Minnesota will be one of the only states in the country to verify voters’ citizenship status.
In the 84th Legislature (2005-2006), Tom Emmer (HF1443) and then-state Senator Michele Bachmann (SF923) introduced companion bills that would have required Minnesotans to provide proof of citizenship when they registered to vote, along with other changes to election law.
However, the citizenship documentation portion was stricken from the Emmer bill on May 9, 2006, just before the final version was approved by the Republican-controlled House on a 71-62 vote. DFLers Mary Ellen Otremba and Lyle Koenen voted for it, along with all Republicans voting.
The bill was sent to the Senate, where it died in the Elections Committee after being introduced by Bachmann and former Senator Maddy Reiter--the fate of their own bill, SF923, introduced in February 2005 and quickly dispatched to the elections committee.
Indeed, Bachmann was responsible for earlier versions of the legislation, which lacked a House companion bill until Tom Emmer showed up. As far as Bluestem is able to determine, Bachmann was first to bring the notion to the Minnesota Senate, introducing SF 1011 on February 22, 2001 with Republican co-authors Roy Terwilliger and Mark Ourada; Independence Party Senator Sam Lessard added his name to the bill in March (a former DFL, Lessard had switched parties in 2000).
Other states have passed laws requiring that those registering to vote document their citizenship, but some voting right groups estimate that up to 7 percent of Americans lack the documents that prove they are citizens. It's viewed as form of voter restriction.
Had the election judges been more alert in two precincts in Austin, it's unlikely the men would have faced charges, just a stern talking to before being asked to hit the road. As it is, they were caught and face felony charges.
And that might get them in big trouble with ICE, which frowns on felony crimes of moral turpitude. As the Immigration Policy Center notes, it's not just undocumented immigrants who get deported, but lawful permanent residents who are convictedof crimes as well.
Will prosecutions be a deterrent for others lawful permanent residents considering voting illegally? Given the difficulty of obtaining lawful status, it's not a difficult question to answer.
Photo: Voting is for eligible voters.
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