Friday, March 11, 2011

The GOP is Still Lying, Claiming Voter Fraud in Crow Wing County in a Pathetic Attempt to Justify Their Bad Voter Legislation

A thorough investigation last year found no evidence of voter fraud with disabled voters in Crow Wing County, but it did raise serious questions about the integrity of Monty Jensen.

Monty Jensen claimed he witnessed 25 disabled voters improperly voting absentee in the Crow Wing County Courthouse.

There are lots of problems with his claims; the most important one is that there were no disabled voters in the courthouse at the time he claims he was there voting himself.  There were only 8 disabled voters, appropriately assisted by the people they had legally requested to do so, and Jensen could not correctly identify who those assistants were - he got their genders wrong, among other things.

Since Jensen could not witness what did not occur in his claimed presence, I have called Monty Jensen a liar on this blog. He has lied about other things as well, such as his claim that members of the auditor staff told him 'this was the fourth group in today', to try to embroider his story in the vain hopes of making it credible with fake details. The auditor's staff consistently have denied saying any such thing, and their version of events is far more believable because there were no other groups of disabled voters who came in that day. So Jensen doesn't just lie a little; he lies a lot.

Now the conservatives, including our blogging friend Mitch Berg, are trying to resurrect their badly discredited story, by invoking the statements of another person who wasn't there. At least this guy admits he wasn't there, but he is still not credible in the claims he does make.

Per the local paper, the Brainerd Dispatch:
In a written and notarized statement, Stene said: “It is apparent to me that James was exploited by these individuals who were caring for him by bringing him to vote.”

Stene spoke to the board and was accompanied by his son. Stene said he now lives in Montana and only recently learned of the October voting incident. In his statement, Stene said his son is mentally incompetent and very coachable, leading to his belief someone filled in his son’s ballot.

Stene told commissioners his son was “made to vote” by the group home. James, in a halting voice, said he was made to vote.
Except that other than when his father dragged him in front of this Crow Wing County Commissioners meeting, his son has consistently said - when not under this kind of durress - that HE DID WANT TO VOTE, including in addressing multiple reporters on different occasions, not one but two sheriff's department investigators, and the County Attorney, Don Ryan.  (Ryan, a conservative, can hardly be faulted by other conservatives for having a liberal vote-stealing agenda.) 

Ryan affirmed in that same Commissioners Metting that this disabled adult specifically told him he had wanted to vote, and that it was the disabled man's father who was not being accurate in his claims:
At the Tuesday meeting, Ryan took issue with Stene’s statements, saying Stene misrepresented their conversations when speaking to the board.

Ryan said when he sat down and spoke to James “he personally informed me he did want to vote not that someone made him to vote. ...

“I think it’s a bad thing to come in and try to create an issue in an open forum setting and when it will be televised,” Ryan said. “There currently is an investigation pending into the exploitation of a vulnerable adult.”
There are further problems with these claims.  The senior Mr. Stene claimed his sone should not be allowed to vote:
Stene described his 35-year-old son as a vulnerable adult who suffered a traumatic brain injury after a near-drowning when he was 12. Stene said his son’s mental capabilities are between the ages of 10-15

This condition may accurately describe his son's mental capabilities at the time of his injury, when he was in fact 12 years old.  But there are records of court hearings - the ONLY way that anyone can have their right to vote revoked is by a court - which strongly suggests that was NOT the finding of qualified individuals who presented their evaluations to the court:
Case Type: Conservatorship – Adult
Subtype: Guardianship – Incapacitated Person (ACV)
Date Filed: 05/26/1994
Location: Crow Wing
Party Information Lead Attorneys
Protected Person STENE, JAMES ALAN
DOB: 06/25/1975
Events & Orders of the Court DISPOSITIONS
05/26/1994 FLD-Case Filed (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
06/08/1994 DOC-Document Filed (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
06/08/1994 ORN-Order with Notice (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
06/13/1994 AOM-Affidavit of Mailing (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
06/13/1994 PSS-Physician’s Statement (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
06/22/1994 ORD-Order (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
07/06/1994 DOC-Document Filed (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
07/06/1994 DOC-Document Filed (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
07/06/1994 LTR-Letters (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
07/06/1994 ORN-Order with Notice (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
07/06/1994 Hearing (9:00 AM) (Judicial Officer Leitner, John R.) Result: Converted Activity Status Flag Occurred
08/04/1994 DOC-Document Filed (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
07/05/1995 PWB-Personal Well-Being Report (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
10/01/1999 REM-Reminder Notice (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
04/29/2003 REM-Reminder Notice (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
06/03/2003 DOC-Document Filed (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
02/17/2005 DOC-Document Filed (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
03/14/2005 NUL-Null Activity (Judicial Officer: Judge, Presiding )
03/14/2005 WRC-Recall Warrant (Judicial Officer: Solien, John R. )
03/14/2005 CANCELED Hearing (10:30 AM) (Judicial Officer Solien, John R.)
Other 03/14/2005 CANCELED Order to Show Cause Hearing (10:30 AM) (Judicial Officer Solien, John R.)ther
05/20/2005 WAR-Warrant Issued (Judicial Officer: Solien, John R. )
So, the courts clearly have looked at Mr. Stene as a vulnerable adult, and evaluated him for guardianship, including presumably revoking or retaining his voting rights around the time he became an adult, and subsequently.  Since he lives in Montana, and doesn't seem to be very in touch with what is going on in his son's life, I'm making a good guess here that James Stene's father is NOT his legal guardian.  And since he is probably not his guardian, he is not the proper person to be making these claims.  I don't know what the full details are of the guardianship arrangement, but I do know that it is guardians who are the legal representatives of incapacitated persons, empowered to act on their behalf, and that they are required to be informed of the various legal matters in the lives of the people for whom they care.

The accuracy of his statement about the competence of James Stene is not supported by the above court record, not by his prior voting record (funny how no one challenged earlier votes, including his daddy), and is not supported by James Stene's living arrangements which are predicated on a very high level of functioning in order to qualify for the Clark Lake facilities and services.  I am not willing to accept the statement made by Mr. Stene about his son, since there is no evidence that it is based on a current qualified professional evaluation of James Stene's capabilities - unlike the evidence provided to the court.

Since Stene insists he wanted to vote - and everyone from the Clark Lake facility who voted in the 2010 were prior registered voters - then the staff was legally obligated to assist him, when requested, the absolute 180 degree opposite of what is claimed.  It is clearly indicated on the Secretary of State's web site:
In Minnesota, only a court may decide whether an individual is competent to vote.

No one else may make this decision, including spouses, children, caregivers, doctors, or nurses, even if they personally are convinced that the individual is not competent to vote. Individuals who are under guardianship, conservatorship or for whom someone else has power of attorney retain their right to vote unless it is specifically revoked by a court (Minnesota Statutes, section 524.5-313 (c) (8)).

Voters are entitled to assistance to cast their ballots.
Under Minnesota law, voters may receive assistance in marking their ballots by any person of their choosing—other than an agent of their employer, their union or a candidate. No person may assist more than three voters in marking their ballots. Alternatively, voters may choose to get assistance from two election judges of different major political parties or may use the AutoMARK ballot-marking device found in each polling place (Minnesota Statutes, section 204C.15).

Persons assisting voters may not in any way try to influence the voter’s choices.
Doing so is a felony. Any organizing efforts to provide assistance to voters should consider providing safeguards, such as having two individuals provide assistance to voters together, to avoid any appearance of impropriety. (Minnesota Statutes, sections 204.C.15; 204C.41)

Persons assisting voters must not mark the ballot if the voter cannot communicate his or her intent.
It is not enough to "know" how the voter wants or might want to vote. The voter must be able to express their preference and direct the person providing assistance to mark their ballot. If the voter cannot communicate his or her intent in a way in which the assistant can understand, the assistant must not mark the ballot—doing otherwise is a gross misdemeanor (Minnesota Statutes, section 204C.16).
Unless someone finds something I missed, James Stene IS legally, and mentally, competent to vote, as determined by a court of law.  The only people who seem to want to interfere with that right to exercise the franchise is his father and other conservatives who are using disabled people as pawns in their efforts to prevent people from exercising their right to vote, for no better reason than to prevent people who they think will vote for Democrats from doing so.  I find what James Stene's father did to him in front of a board meeting of county commissioners in Crow Wing County disturbing and offensive.  There is a confidential means to re-evaluate James Stene's voting rights, if that is required - and this was not it. 

No one has seen fit to make that court challenge in the past 18 years so far as I can find records; it is worth noting, no one is doing so now either.  IF Mr. James Stene IS an unqualified voter - prove it.  PUT up or quit grandstanding, and certainly stop pretending right wingers that you really give a tinkers damn about these disabled voters. 

If you really cared about disabled voters instead of trying to cheat other people out of the vote conservatives, your conduct would be very different, and a helluva lot more honest.

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