Thursday, October 27, 2005

illegal voting

i wrote last month about a minneapolis woman who was charged with illegal voting because she cast a ballot while still on probation. other prosecutors are getting into the act as well. according to a milwaukee journal-sentinel story by reed epstein:

"A 24-year-old woman with a felony drug conviction in Dane County voted illegally in the 2004 presidential election, according to a complaint filed Friday in Waukesha County Circuit Court. Elizabeth A. Mitchell-Frazier of Waukesha faces one count of voting illegally and one count of falsifying her voter registration. The two felony charges carry a combined maximum penalty of 3 1/2 years in prison and up to $11,000 in fines. ...According to the criminal complaint, Mitchell-Frazier was told that after her conviction, in March 2004 in Dane County, she would lose her voting rights until the end of her sentence, which was three years of probation and drug and alcohol treatment. On election day, Mitchell-Frazier filled out a voter registration card and voted at Prairie Elementary School, the complaint says. It states she listed a valid Wisconsin driver's license on her voter registration application. But Mitchell-Frazier told investigators she thought the Dane County conviction was a misdemeanor..."

as i noted before, i'm astounded that we've made the simple act of voting a felony-level offense and that prosecutors are pursuing such cases so vigorously. ms. mitchell-frazier didn't vote twice or sell her vote or rig voting machines or turn legal voters away at the polls or destroy the votes of others. she merely showed up at the local elementary school and cast a ballot. i doubt that any judge will give her 3.5 years of prison time for this, but the fact that she could is incredible. if i drink a fifth of jack daniels before hitting rush-hour traffic today and get into a bloody fistfight after rear-ending a school bus, there's no way i'd be charged with a felony or even threatened with anything worse than a few weeks in the workhouse (no, i don't know this from personal experience). I'd be interested to know: (a) how many people have been prosecuted for illegal voting solely by virtue of their felon status and (b) what sort of sentences they have received. Has anyone actually done time for voting?

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