Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

MSOP residents seek office

Convicted sex offenders conduct write-in campaign


Sex offenders who are confined to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) facility in Moose Lake are organizing a campaign to elect fellow offenders to city and county offices, an article in the Star Tribune reported on October 16.

The sex offenders are civilly committed to the program, and do have the right to vote.

Many of the sex offenders had been convicted and served time with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, where they did not have voting rights.

With a population of approximately 450 offenders in the facility, their votes could significantly impact the city and county elections.

The city of Moose Lake has a population of approximately 2,700 people, including Department of Corrections inmates and MSOP offenders. Those facilities are located within the city limits.

Carlton County Auditor Paul Gassert reported there are 925 registered voters from the city as of September this year. He expects a few more will register and vote by absentee ballot or on General Election Day on November 4.

The offenders from the sex offender program are registering to vote. Gassert said 173 offenders had registered by October 17. They listed their addresses as 11 Highway 73, the address of the MSOP.

“Usually the offenders are just interested in national and state offices,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday. “I still believe that to be true.”

However, in the article in the Star Tribune it states the offenders have been frustrated by their slow-moving court case that declares confinement to the treatment facility without an end date is unconstitutional. They want to be released and live in the community.

The candidates from the sex offender program who are running against the candidates outside of the facility who have filed, are conducting a write-in campaign. They could not file to run for the offices, a procedure that has to be done at the city or county auditor’s office.

Gassert pointed out the offenders don’t understand that, if they want to know the results of the write-in campaign, they have to fill out a form and request the write-in votes be tallied, and they be notified of the tally.

According to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, candidates do not have to request the write-in votes be tallied for city, school district or township elections, just county, state and federal elections.

The offenders have to vote by absentee ballot. Some have already done so, said Gassert.

He explained a separate envelope contains the ballot inside of an outer envelope that has their registration form. The actual ballot envelope, which has no markings, is mixed with the other absentee ballot envelopes, and then all are opened on election day.

“My office staff looks at the absentee ballot envelopes that come in from all over the county, and we merge the results here,” he said. “There is no way for us to tell which ballots came from which group.”

Gassert also stated a write-in candidate who receives the most votes still isn’t elected until he or she is sworn in.

“There have been cases where a write-in candidate died before he was sworn in, and another candidate moved away,” he said. “If they receive the most votes, they are just nominated. They have to be sworn in before they can take the seat.”


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