Saturday, September 24, 2005

voting crimes "lack the same gravity as a homicide"

the strib reports that a woman serving a probation sentence for theft voted in a closely contested minnesota mayoral race last year, casting a ballot in a race in which her husband won by a slim 8-vote margin. Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, who happens to be running for US senate, has charged Linda Gilbert with a felony for registering to vote while ineligible.

Court documents indicate that in July, when authorities interviewed Linda Gilbert about the matter, she admitted to voting even though she knew she had lost her right to do so. Klobuchar said her office usually handles 15 to 20 election crime cases -- involving ineligible voters or people voting more than once -- each year after a major election cycle.

ms. gilbert, the current first lady of long lake, minnesota, must be very honest to admit that she knew she had lost the right to vote and voted anyway. still, it seems hard to believe that a thief who did 60 days in the workhouse is now going to catch a new felony for voting -- in her husband's election. here's the kicker, though:

Such crimes lack the same gravity as a homicide, Klobuchar said, but they still need to be prosecuted. "We have to protect the integrity of our elections."

i'm wondering about that "lack the same gravity as a homicide" quote. is it a joke? nowhere in the story is it mentioned that felony probationers can vote in 19 states or that the minnesota legislature considered enfranchising probationers and parolees this spring (i drafted a short report on the impact of this change in march). minnesota makes heavy use of probation and light use of incarceration, so ms. gilbert and thousands of others would have been able to vote without risking a felony conviction. under the proposal the total disenfranchised would have shrunk from an estimated 55,551 to 13,825, or from about 1.5 percent to about 0.4 percent of the voting-age population (and from about 12 percent to 3.5 percent of the African American voting age population).

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