By Mike Kaszuba
Nearly a year after Joe Biden won the November 2020 election, Minneapolis police were still trying to determine whether a 44-year-old resident with a string of felony and other criminal convictions had committed voter fraud by casting a ballot in the presidential election.
In October 2021, after combing through criminal records and filing a 17-page report, officials concluded that the man had indeed been eligible to vote.
Documents obtained by Public Record Media (PRM), a non-profit based in Saint Paul, show that police and city election officials have continued a painstaking, case-by-case review of a small handful of cases of suspected voter fraud more than 18 months after the election. The cases in Minneapolis, which number less than a hundred and mostly involve convicted felons, center on whether the felons had completed their criminal sentences – including probation – in order to legally vote in the November 2020 election.
While the cases do not have the potential to change the election outcome in Minneapolis – more than 238,000 people in the city voted, and Biden carried Minneapolis overwhelmingly – they shed light on the lengths to which local officials have gone to examine claims of possible voter fraud.
The cases come as the 2020 presidential election continues to occupy center stage in the U.S. – from President Trump’s unproven claims that the election was marred by voter fraud, to the on-going investigation by a U.S. House of Representatives select committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol that occurred as Congress met to certify the election results.
A Hennepin County spokesperson told PRM that – so far – just one of the estimated 90 cases in Minneapolis has been referred to the county attorney for prosecution.
“The number of potential cases submitted to [Minneapolis police] for further investigation represent less than four-hundredths of one percent (about 0.037%) of the votes in that election in Minneapolis,” Carolyn Marinan, a Hennepin County spokesperson, told PRM.
Other than the one case submitted for prosecution, Marinan stated in June that Minneapolis police had “completed [the] investigation of approximately one-third of the cases and closed those as unfounded. The remaining two-thirds are still being investigated by [the police].”
Marinan said the “vast majority” of the cases involved suspected voter fraud by convicted felons.
The Minneapolis investigations reveal how tedious unraveling the voting status of a convicted felon on Election Day can be – especially for a felon convicted of several felony and non-felony crimes.
PRM was provided reports on 26 cases of possible voter fraud that were submitted by the Hennepin County Elections Office to city police following the 2020 election.
“Active charges but no convictions”
In one case, a city police report stated that a 29-year-old man, who lived on Oakland Avenue in Minneapolis, had registered to vote in October 2020. He had been convicted of felonies in January 2018 and May 2018. The 12-page report, filed four months after the election, also stated that the man “does [also now] have active charges but no convictions.
But, wrote police investigator Justin Reisdorfer: “The documents do not support the alleged voter fraud and supports [suspect’s] ability to cast the said vote.”
Another case involved possible voter fraud by man who, likewise, had accumulated multiple felony convictions – before and after the 2020 election. According to a police report obtained by PRM, the 31-year-old had three felony convictions in 2010, another in 2012 and two others in 2015 and 2017.
But records showed that he was legally eligible to vote in the 2020 election because he had completed his sentence on a previous felony conviction – and was not convicted of another felony until August 2021, nine months after the election.
His records also showed he had, over the years, been convicted of simple robbery, first degree burglary and fifth degree assault.
Ginny Gelms, the Hennepin County elections manager, formally asked that the case be investigated in April 2021, five months after the election. After the review, the Minneapolis police determined that there appeared to be no voter fraud. While the investigation showed that the suspect had “multiple convictions ranging from misdemeanors to felonies,” he “does not appear to be in violation” of voting laws during the November 2020 election, Mike Nimlos, a city police official, wrote in a 28-page report in October 2021.
The voting status of convicted felons in Minnesota can be complicated.
According to state law, a convicted felon is eligible to vote once all parts of their sentence are complete, including probation, parole or supervised release. But a felon’s probation period, for example, can extend far beyond their date of conviction or incarceration – making them ineligible to vote if they are still on probation on Election Day.
Meanwhile persons charged or convicted of less serious crimes such as misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors can vote, even if they are in jail. And those charged with a felony, but not convicted at the time they vote, are likewise eligible to cast a ballot.
Some of the cases being investigated in Minneapolis illustrate these complexities.
One 40-year-old man had four felony convictions in 2015 – and finished probation in four criminal cases just in time to vote in November 2020, records obtained by PRM showed. The man, who was convicted of aggravated forgery among multiple misdemeanor and felony convictions, finished probation in July 2020 – just four months before Election Day.
On probation for gross misdemeanor, but not felony
Still another man was investigated by Minneapolis police after voting by absentee ballot in November 2020. The conclusion, according to a 19-page police report in November 2021: The man was on probation for a gross misdemeanor on Election Day, but not a felony. “Seeing that [the suspect] was not on probation for a felony level crime [it] does not appear” to be a violation of election law, police investigator David Hansen wrote.
The same was true for a Minneapolis man who had been, among other things, convicted of domestic assault, first degree criminal damage to property and third degree burglary. Records showed he had three felony convictions in 2011, one in 2013 and another in 2017.
In addition, records showed that he had arrived to vote in November 2020 without a Minnesota-issued driver’s license, any type of state identification card or a Social Security number. An employee at a residential treatment facility near downtown Minneapolis signed an affidavit vouching that the man was a resident of the voting precinct.
While the man was on probation in Ramsey County for either a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor on Election Day 2020 – and in November 2021 was apparently, according to police, in jail in Faribault, MN – he was not serving a felony sentence in November 2020. The case was marked “unfounded.”
One case that did not involve questions of whether a convicted felon had illegally voted regarded the case of a 23-year-old woman. According to a police report, the Minneapolis woman was investigated for voting twice in the Eighth Ward in the November 2020 election, once by mail and once in person.
According to a police report, an investigator phoned the woman and recorded the conversation nearly a year after the election. “She agreed to talk to me about the voter fraud case,” said Nimlos, the police investigator.
“I learned that she remembers voting in person near her house in Minneapolis but doesn’t recall voting by mail,” he wrote in a report. “She didn’t intentionally vote twice and doesn’t remember voting [through] the mail.”
Nimlos marked the case as unfounded and closed.
Records obtained by PRM also document the case of a 56-year-old man who was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual assault and sentenced in February 2010. According to police, the man was on supervised release until 2031 – but voted in the November 2020 election.
Police ultimately marked the case as closed in late October 2021, nearly a year after the election. As part of 20-page report, a police investigator noted that he called the man and interviewed him. “He stated that he didn’t know he couldn’t vote and was told [only] last Monday by his probation agent [that] he isn’t allowed to vote,” the investigator wrote.
The suspect “didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to vote and didn’t intentionally vote knowing that he was in violation of it,” the investigator added.
The police investigator also talked to man’s probation official. “Did you review a probation contract with [him] that specifies that he may not register to vote until he is discharged from supervision?” the investigator asked the probation official. “If so, did [he] sign a copy of the probation contract? If there is a signed contract, I need to obtain a copy for the case file.”
The probation official replied: “I did not explicitly inform [him] that he could not register to vote. As you can see, he has a standard condition of release which prohibits violation of any local, state [and] federal laws.”
Investigations continue against backdrop of controversy
The investigations in Minneapolis have continued against the backdrop of a country still split over the 2020 presidential election, with many Americans, including former President Trump, asserting that widespread voting irregularities took place during the 2020 presidential election.
While the former president and his allies filed numerous state and federal lawsuits charging voting irregularities, over fifty of those cases were dismissed. In December of 2020, Trump’s former attorney general William Barr told the Associated Press that “[t]o date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.
Starting last month, a special U.S. House of Representatives panel has meanwhile used televised hearings to probe the January 6, 2021 rioting at the U.S. Capitol that followed the election, as well as Trump’s role in it. The panel has likewise probed the lengths to which the former president tried to set aside the results of the election, including by raising claims of mass voter fraud. In videotaped testimony before the committee, former attorney general Barr continued to maintain that the U.S. Department of Justice was unable to find evidence of widespread voter fraud during his tenure.
In Minneapolis, other investigations stemming from the 2020 elections have also continued.
In May of this year, Muse Mohamud Mohamed – the brother-in-law of Minnesota state Senator Omar Fateh – was convicted of perjury in relation to his testimony before a federal grand jury. The grand jury had been impaneled as part of a federal investigation into alleged violations of an absentee ballot delivery process used during the 2020 primary election.
According to a report in the Minnesota Reformer, federal prosecutors declined to comment on whether the work of the grand jury is complete.
Disputes over the 2020 election process have also continued as voters prepare for the 2022 elections.
Scott Jensen, the Republican-endorsed candidate for governor in Minnesota, has suggested that Secretary of State Steve Simon should be jailed for how he handled the state’s 2020 election. According to media reports, Jensen has also embraced allegations that dead people had voted, but has not cited evidence to support the claim.