Shawn Marie Kaarbo (aka Shawn Marie Melton and Shawn Marie Strandberg), 49, of Barnum pleaded guilty in Carlton County Court last Wednesday to one count of voting while ineligible. The charge, which was originally filed as a felony, was sentenced as a gross misdemeanor according to the plea agreement.
Judge Wolf sentenced Kaarbo to one year of local confinement and stayed the sentence for two years. He also ordered her to complete 40 hours of community work service.
Kaarbo cast a vote in the November 2012 general election in a polling place in Skelton Township. At that time, she completed a Minnesota voter registration application and signed a certification saying she was eligible to vote.
According to the complaint filed against Kaarbo, however, she was ineligible to vote because she had been convicted of felony first-degree assault on June 15, 2010, and her civil rights had not yet been restored at the time of last fall's election. Part of the reason the inaccuracy was not detected at the time was due to the fact that Kaarbo had recently undergone a change of last name.
Another woman, Anna Nichole Nelson, was also charged with voter fraud in a case similar to Kaarbo's. Election judge Shane Comozzi later brought his suspicions about the two women's eligibility to Carlton County Auditor Paul Gassert.
Gassert said his office is routinely notified of felony convictions so they can update the Carlton County records, and workers in his office also scan each voter's voting history following an election in order to keep their registration status active. If a person has a felony conviction on their record, it shows up at that time. Unfortunately, he added, that information is not always updated as to whether or not that person's civil rights have been restored.
Nelson's case is still going through the court system. Though the two women were charged for the voting offenses, Gassert said their ballots will remain part of last fall's general election count.
"The down side is that we found out about this after the fact," said Gassert, saying there is no way of rescinding their votes at this point.