Charges: St. Paul councilor helped elderly woman cast election ballot

St. Paul City Council member Dai Thao is facing three charges.

What's happened?

St. Paul City Council member Dai Thao has been charged with three election offenses after he allegedly helped an disabled senior fill out a ballot.

Thao was running in the St. Paul mayoral election won by Melvin Carter, and currently represents Ward 1 on the city council.

What did he allegedly do?

According to the criminal complaint, an election judge working at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center at 271 Mackubin St. saw a man he later identified as Thao entering a voting booth with an elderly woman and appearing to assist her with her ballot.

A complaint was made to the Ramsey County Elections Manager and was subsequently investigated by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office at the request of St. Paul PD.

They spoke to the elderly woman he allegedly helped, who said she and other people had been approached by a man calling himself Mr. Xiong, who asked if she needed a ride to a voting station.

The woman, who has sight issues and does not speak much English, says the man explained each segment of the ballot paper after entering the voting booth with her.

He did not tell her how to vote, but he did physically fill out a ballot for her.

She subsequently identified to police that this Mr. Xiong was Dai Thao, and that he hadn't told her he was a mayoral candidate.

What does Thao say?

In interview with police, Thao admitted going into the voting booth with the woman and helped her fill out the ballot.

Speaking to the Pioneer Press on Tuesday, Thao's attorney says that while he may have helped someone vote, he doesn't believe he violated the law.

“The conduct of which Mr. Thao now stands accused is perfectly legal for virtually everyone in Minnesota. There is no allegation that Mr. Thao did anything intentionally wrong, or that he did anything wrong other than help one elderly woman overcome disabilities so that she could vote," he said in a statement.

Thao has been charged with one count of unlawfully marking a ballot, misconduct in a public polling place and unlawfully assisting a voter.

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