MANKATO — An Austin man serving prison time allegedly found a way to cast an absentee ballot in a primary election in St. Peter in January and is now facing a felony voter fraud charge.
Representatives from the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office contacted Bridgette Kennedy, Nicollet County auditor and treasurer, in February to report that Marieo Joneth Olivayes, 32, had cast an illegal vote in a Jan. 29 primary election. The report was turned over to a St. Peter police detective who confirmed that Olivayes was serving a prison sentence for first-degree assault and wasn't scheduled to finish his parole obligations until April 2017.
The detective also learned that Olivayes had faxed a request for an absentee ballot to the the auditor's office on Jan. 16 and a ballot was mailed to him at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter on Jan. 18, according to a criminal complaint filed in Nicollet County District Court.
His application to register as a voter and his ballot were returned to the auditor sometime between Jan. 21-28. Olivayes had signed a portion of the application that said he was not a convicted felon or, if he was, his rights to vote had been restored, the complaint said. He had voted in a DFL primary election for District 19A, which was won by now state Rep. Clark Johnson of North Mankato.
Kennedy said Wednesday that there are inmates at the Security Hospital who are eligible to vote because they have not been convicted of a felony or have had their voting rights restored. So it is not uncommon for the county to receive requests for absentee ballots from that address, she said.
When Olivayes was interviewed by the detective, he allegedly admitted to applying for and casting an absentee ballot early this year. He told the detective that he thought he was casting a vote to decide who would be in charge of the Security Hospital. Olivayes also said he didn't realize he was ineligible to vote, the complaint said.