By Charles Sercombe
Four men convicted of illegally handling absentee ballots last year got off easy.
All four received minor fines and court fees, but they will each have a felony conviction on record for at least five years.
At the end of five years, they will be eligible to have their felony convictions expunged from their record, and otherwise be considered free of having a criminal record.
But then again, there will always be the Internet to haunt them.
For three of the men, their trouble began in the August 2013 primary election.
Salim Ahmed, 50, Armani Asad, 33 and Russell Mohammed, 32, had been charged with illegally delivering a total of 41 absentee ballots for the primary election.
They faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $1,000 fine.
As it turned out, they were each convicted of one count and had to pay over $300 in fines and fees.
A fourth man, Mohammed Rahmon, 61, was also charged with illegally handling absentee ballots, handing in six ballots for the November election last year.
He also pleaded guilty to one count and reportedly was sentenced to probation.
Last year’s election was a milestone when over 700 Hamtramck voters voted by absentee ballots. In prior years, no more than 300 to 400 voters used this method of casting a ballot.
The snag that the defendants ran into is that it’s against the law for anyone to submit an absentee ballot for a voter who is not related or living in their residence.
The defendants initially chose to fight the charges, saying the law was obscure and unconstitutional and also that they were unfairly singled out by the City Clerk’s Office.
City Clerk August Gitschlag denied he singled out anyone and said he was only following the law. He turned the matter over to the police department for further investigation, which turned its findings over to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
The Wayne County Prosecutor declined to take up the matter, but the Attorney General’s Office decided to prosecute.
So far in this election cycle, there have been over 800 absentee ballots submitted, and Gitschlag said there have been no significant improprieties.