The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is declining to file charges against a felon who illegally voted in Minneapolis last year, according to a memo obtained by Alpha News.
The document says Clayton Quarles registered to vote and voted in September 2021, “even though his voter registration application asked him to affirm that his sentence had expired, been completed, or been discharged.”
Quarles was serving a two-year probation sentence for his involvement in a June 2019 altercation at Harriet Island in St. Paul. A criminal complaint from the case says he exited a vehicle with a gun in his hand after he began arguing with another man at the park.
The two men began fighting and Quarles’ gun went off, according to the complaint. Quarles hit the man with his gun several times, the complaint says.
“I thought I was gonna get shot and die,” the victim told police. Another witness said she thought the victim “would have been shot” if he hadn’t “knocked aside the defendant’s arm,” according to the complaint.
Quarles eventually pleaded guilty to one count of felony threats of violence and a charge of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon was dismissed.
An April 2021 sentencing order says he was placed on probation for two years and received a stay of imposition, meaning the charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor upon successful completion of probation.
In Minnesota, felons cannot vote until they complete their full sentence, including probation, parole, or supervised release.
Quarles met with his probation officer on Sept. 7, 2021, and signed an agreement outlining the conditions of his probation, according to the memo obtained by Alpha News. The earliest he could have voted was Sept. 17.
These conditions included: “Do not register to vote or vote until discharged from probation and your civil rights are fully restored.”
The probation officer said he is willing to testify that he told Quarles he was not allowed to vote.
Prosecutors apparently believe they lack sufficient evidence to charge Quarles because the officer’s notes from this meeting “do not reflect that he specifically informed Mr. Quarles that he was not eligible to vote or register to vote.”
They also took issue with the fact that the officer never “re-reviewed” the terms of Quarles’ probation during subsequent meetings.
“Considering the amount of content that probationers must digest in their probation documents and at their probation meetings, the best evidence to support this charge would be a dated and contemporaneously written note in the suspect’s probation file that states Mr. Robinson had a substantive discussion with Mr. Quarles about the voting restriction. Here, I cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Quarles acted with the requisite knowledge and criminal intent to vote as an ineligible person,” an assistant county attorney said in the memo.
The evidence, according to prosecutors, does not indicate Quarles “intended” to violate state election laws, and thus “the County Attorney’s Office is exercising its prosecutorial discretion to also decline the lesser charge of registering to vote while ineligible.”
Multiple sources told Alpha News they know of hundreds of similar cases, but charges are rarely filed.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office declined to comment.