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Jury convicts township official of destroying ballots

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RED WING — A township supervisor has been convicted of a felony for burning ballots after an election in March 2014.

A jury found Thomas Joseph Shane, 59, of Zumbrota, guilty Thursday of election day act-mutilating ballots. He was acquitted of misconduct of a public officer, a gross misdemeanor. Jurors deliberated for less than a day.

Sentencing has been set for Sept. 25; he faces up to a year in jail.

The case began March 21, 2014, when a woman who had run for a spot on the Wanamingo Township Board filed a Minnesota State Election Law complaint. In it, she alleged that Shane destroyed ballots from a township election held March 11, despite being told by at least two people that the ballots must be kept for 22 months.

The woman said she left after the election at the annual meeting that night, but before the canvas meeting, where the votes are recounted and verified. At the next regular township meeting a week later, the township maintenance man told her Shane had taken the ballots home and burned them the night of the election.

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No one saw the ballots again.

Shane told an investigator he's never been an election judge, and was simply doing what he'd been asked to do. He denied hearing anyone say anything about keeping the ballots, and admitted taking them home and burning them the night of the election.

The township clerk also completed an election law complaint, claiming one of the men who counted the votes said "the ballots should be destroyed as soon as possible."

The clerk said both she and another township supervisor told the man the ballots needed to be kept, then proceeded with the canvassing meeting immediately after the annual meeting and election.

When the counting was finished, Shane said the result was a landslide and there was no reason for a re-count. He then started gathering up the ballots and said he would take care of destroying them, the woman said.

The clerk said she once again said the ballots needed to be kept, and pointed to a metal box that the ballots were to be placed in. According to the woman's complaint, Shane said something about burning the ballots at his house, and left with them.

The minutes of the meeting reflected Shane said he would take the ballots home and burn them, and also made note that the township clerk said they needed to be kept in the metal box. The meeting minutes state Shane took the ballots with him.

Goodhue County records indicate Feuling attended election judge training in 2012, when election material retention was covered, including the 22-month period.

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