She's 86 years old and she loves her country, but a St. Peter woman who is slowly losing her memory says an honest mistake left her facing a felony charge of voter fraud.
The county attorney claims Margaret Schneider voted twice, but she told FOX 9 News she didn't remember having voted absentee when she went to the polls on Election Day.
Schneider said that she has never incurred so much as a parking ticket in her life, and had never been in trouble with the law before this. What's more, she says she's a proud American who takes her voter responsibility very seriously.
"I've always voted -- ever since I've been old enough to," she explained.
That's why it was even more shocking when she got a letter explaining that she was charged for cheating at the polls in 2012.
"It's driving me crazy, I'll tell you the truth," Schneider admitted.
The charging documents claim that Schneider voted by absentee ballot in July and also voted at the polls in November, but she says there's a simple explanation.
"It's very hard to remember everything," she said.
While Schneider does daily word-find games to keep her mind sharp, it's not enough to stop the march of dementia. For Schneider, losing her memory is a frustrating process, especially when she can't remember how many grandchildren she has.
"Very disgusting," she said.
She's disgusted with the system too because the criminal complaint also says that the roster book she signed at her polling place had the letters "A.B." next to her name, signifying that she had cast an absentee ballot.
"Why didn't they tell me to go home? That's what I'm trying to figure out," Schneider told FOX 9 News.
Michelle Zehnder Fisher is the county attorney, and she told FOX 9 News she had no choice when it came to filing charges against Schneider.
"If I have probable cause to believe the crime occurred, I do not have discretion to charge," she said. "I have to charge it."
Fischer told FOX 9 News she would lose her job if she refused to file the charges, although the voting fraud requirements differ from other crimes.
"I'm given discretion in every other aspect of my job," Fisher said. "I would like to have that same discretion in voter cases."
Fischer admitted she is not interested in putting Schneider in jail, but said she hopes the case can be resolved quickly in the interest of justice.
As for Schneider, she said she hopes election officials will be vigilant about checking rosters to ensure a voter hasn't already cast their ballot, adding that she never would have voted the second time if she had known.
"It's against the law to do that," she said.
Currently, the election judge is not being investigated for allowing Schneider to vote.
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