Honest mistake or voter fraud?

A recent article on addictinginfo.org examines the case of an 86-year-old with Parkinson’s disease, accused of voter fraud. From the article:

Hooray! In their efforts to disenfranchise tackle that ever-so crushing 0.0002 percent problem of voter fraud (equivalent to the number of UFO sightings and the money spent on House Speaker Boehner’s tanning bed solution), the GOP finally nailed one of those sneaky, derelict voters. Never-mind that the guilty party is an 86-year-old woman with dementia, who says she forgot she had already sent in her absentee ballot when she went to her polling place in November. Whip out the Mission Accomplished banner and send this octogenarian to Gitmo!

The article goes on to say that Margaret Schneider mistakenly voted twice in the 2012 primaries, and that Margaret’s stance on it is that she should not have been allowed to vote twice, and thus the election judges are just as guilty.

At least here in Harris County, Texas, those at the polling places know who voted by mail and early voted, and those people are not allowed to vote again. Those responsible for running the election in Nicollet County, Minnesota, apparently didn’t do that in this instance, or someone didn’t mark the election rolls correctly.

I’ll be honest here, I’m all for getting rid of voter fraud, by which I mean intentional “stuffing of the ballot box” and other such manipulation of election results to something other than what would result from a true, accurate count of the popular vote. This, to me, is not voter fraud. I normally don’t like the inclusion of intent or “mens rea” into the definition of a crime, as often it can be manipulated in the favor of the prosecution where it should not be. In this case, however, I don’t think there was an intent to defraud, and so this case cannot possibly stand up at trial with any decent jury rendering a verdict.

The troublesome part, to me, is this:

Schneider, convinced that it was an honest mistake and therefore will not be seeking out legal counsel, is scheduled to appear in court on April 2.

Make no mistake, Margaret needs a defense attorney just as much as anyone accused, probably more so because to have any decent hope of winning this case, it needs to be taken to trial. Now, whether or not she can afford one is another story, and it is unfortunate that public defenders are primarily in the business of making plea bargain deals.

I can’t see prosecuting a senior citizen for election fraud to end well for anyone. It’s bad PR for the county, and when this makes national and possibly international news, it makes all of America look bad. If for some reason Margaret is sucessfully prosecuted, I certainly will have lost a lot of my remaining hope of our American legal system truly being about dispensing justice.