Last week – just before the election – the nation got a look at about twenty minutes of video depicting a group of citizens questioning officials from Crow Wing County – think Brainerd – about an apparent incident of ballot-stuffing.
The video left more questions than it answered. Who were these people? What did they see?
The media has touched on the story – and largely asked the really important questions, like “who did the people in the video vote for?”. We’ll come back to that.
I figured it was time to talk with the actual people involved.
The weekend before election day, Monty Jensen of Brainerd took his girlfriend to the Crow Wing County courthouse to vote in person with an absentee ballot. He had to take a partial day of vacation to do it; he commutes from Brainerd to the Twin Cities every day to work. His girlfriend commutes with him; she’s in pharmacy school at the U of M in Minneapolis. “I’m on the road fifteen hours a day”, he points out. So taking the time out to vote was a bit of an effort.
A little after 4:30 on Friday, October 29, Jensen and his girlfriend walked into the Crow Wing County Courthouse, and went upstairs to the Auditor’s office. “It was full of people”, Jensen recalls. They submitted their applications to the auditor, and took a seat to wait their turn to vote. .
“We waited for about fifteen minutes”, Jensen said, “and I noticed there were a lot of people there who seemed to have issues”; they were disabled. “I didn’t think anything of that”, Jensen added.
We’ll come back to that later in the story.
There appeared to be a dozen, maybe fifteen handicapped people, and perhaps three supervisors.
“But what alarmed me”, said Jensen, “was, I’m looking across at a poll booth, and I see a staffer walk over with an individual who’s mentally handicapped, put down ballot w/pen. The guy walked away from the booth. She called him back over – you could tell by her body language she was getting impatient, and the guy wouldn’t come back. So she filled out his ballot. Then she retrieved hjim, and had him turn in his ballot.”
Jensen continued “So I went “what the hell?” I couldn’t[ believe she filled out the guy’s ballot!”
“As I’m voting, the woman was 2 booths down with another invividual. She was talking like he’s a child. Telling him who he should vote for. I think “This isn’t right”. Going right down line, candidate by candidate. I look over – her hand was on the pencil.” Jensen told me he overheard him instructing the man to vote a straight DFL ticket; “it was DFL candiates – Dayton, Oberstar, Taylor Stevens, Ward, right down the ballot, every candidate.”
Jensen said he asked the woman what she was doing. “She grabbed him, went across the room to other station, and continued filling out the ballot. I’ve seen her dictate two people’s votes. My perception is these people [the group of voters] don’t know where they’re at”.
Jensen became concerned. “I went to counter and asked the county worker – “Is this legal?”
Jensen stopped for a moment, and pointed out that he knows that it’s perfectly legal for people to help people to vote. “I’m a disabled veteran. I support the rights of the disabled”.
But, he added, “this was more than “assistance”.
He went to a county worker, and asked if she was aware of what was going on. “She says “Well, yeah””, Jensen continued. “She seemed nervous. Eventually she said “You don’t know the half of it. This is the fourth group we’ve had today”.
Jensen pointed out that his girlfriend witnessed this statement. I’ll be talking with her shortly.
Jensen was so upset by this point that he left the courthouse. “I didn’t really know what to do”.
That would come later.
More later this week.