An East Grand Forks man faces five years in prison after being accused of illegally voting while on probation in 2016 in Minnesota.
Jared Daniel Benson, 24, appeared Tuesday in Polk County District Court on a felony charge of being an ineligible voter who knowingly votes. Court documents allege he filled out a Minnesota voter registration application on Nov. 8, 2016, in East Grand Forks and claimed he was eligible to vote in the 2016 election.
But prosecutors said he did not finish his probation from a North Dakota sentence he received six months before he registered to vote. Felons in Minnesota who are on probation, parole or supervised release cannot vote in elections until they complete the terms of their sentence, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State's website.
Benson pleaded guilty April 13, 2016, in Grand Forks District Court to several drug-related crimes, including delivery of marijuana, a Class B felony.
In that case, investigators used confidential informants to buy 5 ounces of marijuana from Benson in August 2015 in the Walmart parking lot on Gateway Drive, according to court documents. Officers later stopped Benson and matched the $1,500 used in the drug buy to money Benson had in his possession, court documents said.
Investigators also searched Benson's home and found 2 ounces of marijuana, 5 grams of cocaine, blotter paper which Benson identified as LSD, a baggie of ecstacy, drug paraphernalia and $5,460 according to court documents.
Benson's probation was transferred to the Tri-County Corrections Center when he moved to East Grand Forks in October 2016, according to court documents.
Felons in North Dakota cannot vote while incarcerated, but their voting rights are restored once they are released from jail or prison, according to the Secretary of State's Office.
When interviewed about the alleged offense in October 2017, Benson told police he did not know he couldn't vote in the 2016 election. Charges were filed for the case July 30.
Documents Benson signed while registering to vote asked whether he was a felon and if his sentence had expired or had been discharged, which he affirmed, according to court documents.
Voters who register online through the Minnesota website are asked if they are incarcerated, on parole or on probation as part of a felony conviction, but a copy of a paper application found on the website does not mention probation or parole.
The paper application says voters who sign it have certified they "have the right to vote because, if I have been convicted of a felony, my felony sentence has expired (been completed) or I have been discharged from my sentence."