By Charles Sercombe
Allegations of illegal handling of absentee ballots continue in Hamtramck.
Despite widespread media reports of three Hamtramck men illegally submitting absentee ballots during the August Primary Election, there’s now a fourth man who has done the same thing two weeks ago.
Deputy City Clerk August Gitschlag said Mohammed Rahmon, 61, handed in six ballots for the Nov. 5 election from voters not related to him or residing in his household.
One of the ballots, however, lacked the voter’s signature and will remain uncounted until the voter signs it.
State election law allows only family members of a voter or those in their household and postal workers to return a ballot if a voter can’t return it in person or mail it.
That rule is stated on the envelope of the absentee ballot and in two other places in the packaging that includes the ballot.
Three Hamtramck men, Salim Ahmed, 50, Armani Asad, 33 and Russell Mohammed, 32, are charged with illegally delivering a total of 41 absentee ballots for the primary election.
They are charged with a felony, and they face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $1,000 fine.
A preliminary examination was held in Hamtramck 31st District Court last Thursday, and all three men were bound over to Wayne County Circuit Court for further legal action.
Gitschlag said he spent about 45 minutes on the witness stand where defense attorneys questioned him about how the city handled this issue in the past and whether he was motivated to seek legal repercussion because the defendants are Bangladeshi-American.
Gitschlag, who is white, said he knew nothing of what the clerk’s office did in the past and denied he was biased against the men. He told The Review that he simply upheld the law and turned the matter over to the police department.
Police investigators turned over what they found to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, which in turn asked the state Attorney General’s Office to take over.
Gitschlag said that in the latest incident he once again turned it over to the police department.
The issue of voting by absentee ballot became an issue in another way during this election season. Over 700 voters used that method of voting during the primary election, which is an unprecedented number of ballots being cast this way.
It looks like this is no aberration.
Gitschlag said that so far 887 voters have applied to vote by absentee ballot for the Nov. 5 General Election, and that as of Wednesday 370 of those ballots have been returned.
Breaking news: Members of the Bangladeshi community rallied in front of city hall on Friday to protest the arrests and claimed discrimination. The Review will have more on this next week.