St. Paul Mayoral Candidate Under Investigation for Helping Voter Cast Ballot

November 08, 2017 10:18 PM

Dai Thao has been on the St. Paul City Council since 2014. 

He represents Ward One, which includes the Frogtown neighborhood.


He had hoped to become the city's first Hmong mayor Tuesday. But Melvin Carter won that election. And by Wednesday, Thao had become the target of a criminal investigation. 

RELATED: Scott County: No Charges of Attempted Bribery for St. Paul Mayoral Candidate

Joe Mansky, head of Ramsey County's Election Office, was concerned enough about the accusation made against Thao that he shared it with St. Paul police. 

The incident report is dated Monday at about 9 a.m. The location is listed as the Martin Luther King Junior Community Center on Mackubin Street. 

The polling site is in Thao's district and early voting took place there. 

The complaint accused Thao of interfering with the election by helping a voter cast their ballot. 

According to MN Statute 204C.15, it's illegal for a candidate to enter a booth with a voter.

However, there are provisions if someone needs assistance because of a language or physical barrier.

To avoid a conflict of interest, a St. Paul police spokesperson said the complaint was turned over to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department for criminal investigation.

Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman said Wednesday he was aware of the report.

 "Generally, you can assist voters in a polling place," he said. "I think it's unwise for an actual candidate to assist someone. I can't judge it until I see it."

The purported incident happened one day before the election. 

One day after the election, Thao was back at City Hall ready to resume his seat at the council table. He blew off questions from reporters as he headed into the meeting. 

But when asked about the potential violation of a voter's rights a second time on his way out of chambers Thao stopped and said ... "Congratulations Mayor Carter and voters we respect their decision." 

He then walked off.

A judge at the polling booth who didn't want to be identified said ... "I didn't see any voting irregularities and the election process was a secure, first-class system."

On Oct. 31, Thao filed complaints with both the St. Paul Human Rights Office and the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission, alleging police officers interfered with his campaign. 

That probe is ongoing.  

In September, prosecutors in Scott County decided not to pursue charges against Thao, whose campaign had been accused of attempting to solicit a bribe.

The Scott County Attorney's Office said there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension assisted in investigating the case, which was sent to Scott County for review of potential charges because Ramsey County presented a conflict of interest. 


Beth McDonough

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