In a press conference Monday afternoon, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced six charges filed against Southfield City Clerk Sherikia L. Hawkins on allegations of election fraud.
According to Nessel, the Office of the Attorney General was notified of discrepancies in the Southfield voter count several days ago by the Oakland County Clerk’s office, after efforts were made to certify Southfield’s absentee ballots from the November 2018 election. Nessel’s office subsequently worked with the department’s Public Integrity Unit to verify the crimes and determine what charges should be made.
“Overall, our public integrity unit ensures that any public official or law enforcement officer who commits a crime in the state of Michigan, regardless of position, standing, or party affiliation, is held accountable,” Nessel said. “Protecting our democracy is not a partisan issue, and our goal is to restore the public’s interest in honest government and the integrity of public officials at all levels of our government.”
Nessel says her office ultimately filed six charges against Hawkins, including Election Law – Falsifying Returns, Forgery of a Public Record, Misconduct in Office and three counts of using a computer to commit a crime. Hawkins was summoned to court this morning, and appeared in front of Judge Michelle Friedman Appel of the 45th District for a preliminary hearing.
While Nessel would not go into the details of the alleged crime, she explained the allegations involved Hawkins making unauthorized and inaccurate changes to a list of absentee voters who voted in an election last year.
Following Nessel’s statement, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson spoke to the response made by the Attorney General and Secretary of State’s offices, as well as the severity of the alleged crime.
“The events that bring us here today are rare,” Benson said. “They involve actions by a public official entrusted with the administration of elections, and they recognize that our elections, as the Attorney General emphasized, are the foundation of our democracy. All of us stand here before you today to indicate that there will be no tolerance for any actions that undermine that foundation, anywhere, anytime, by any person or official.”
While Benson emphasized the detrimental effects of any degree of election fraud, she also underscored that no election results had been influenced or jeopardized by Hawkins’ alleged actions.
“I want to be clear,” she said. “The allegations that the Southfield clerk falsified official election records did not alter the outcome of any election. There were no races that were won or lost as a result and there were no voters who were disenfranchised.”
Neither Nessel nor Benson would speak to the motivations for Hawkins’ alleged crime. Benson explained that while Hawkins’ actions are being investigated, the Southfield City Clerk’s office will work jointly with the attorney general’s office to administer local elections coming up in November.
According to Benson, the investigation carried out by both her and Nessel’s departments confirms Michigan’s commitment to free and fair elections.
“What today’s announcement also underscores is that in Michigan, our elections are secure,” she said. “It’s important to note that when there are allegations of misconduct, we act swiftly to ensure they are addressed and justice is served, and in fact it is because of our vigorous series of checks and balances, including a very detailed 14-day post-election canvas process designed to confirm election results in every precinct that we uncovered this potential misconduct.”