Nessel issues cease-and-desist letters over voter misinformation

    Attorney General Dana Nessel | Andrew Roth

    While baseless claims and lawsuits about voter fraud in the recent election are hurled at Michigan, Attorney General Dana Nessel has issued a number of cease and desist letters to people spreading misinformation and is investigating legitimate cases of voter fraud.

    Nessel’s office has been investigating several instances of misinformation around the election. 

    Nessel issued five cease and desist letters to various groups on both sides of the political aisle, including Big League Politics, a far-right media group which often publishes conspiracy theories.

    Big League Politics posted misleading and deceptive information online that alleged Detroit poll workers were being trained to commit illegal acts while counting ballots. The publication posted a heavily edited audio recording of what was reportedly a poll worker training session taken out of context to convey a fraudulent message.

    Nessel is continuing investigations into Big League Politics and other entities that were sent cease and desist letters to determine whether laws were broken. 

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    The Attorney General’s office has also taken action to stop alleged attempts to suppress the vote by two men from Virginia, Jack Burkman, 54, and Jacob Wohl, 22, who reportedly orchestrated a robocall to Detroit voters in an attempt to deter them from voting using absentee voter ballots. 

    Burkman and Wohl were recently bound over to Wayne County Circuit Court on multiple felony election law violations, including intimidating voters, a felony punishable by up to five years; conspiracy to commit an election law violation, a felony punishable by up to five years; using a computer to commit the crime of election law, a felony punishable by up to seven years; and using a computer to commit the crime of conspiracy, a felony punishable by up to seven years. 

    Nessel encourages Michiganders to report misinformation by emailing the Secretary of State’s office. 

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    Nessel’s office filed a felony charge against Paul Parana, 47, of Canton Township, who reportedly completed, signed and submitted his daughter’s absentee voter ballot to his local clerk’s office. 

    Parana’s ballot was voided prior to the election and the incident was reported to the Michigan Department of State, which is continuing its investigation, and sent to Nessel’s office for prosecution and further investigation.

    “These actions highlight my office’s commitment to pursuing, investigating and charging, when necessary, election fraud,” Nessel said. “Signing someone else’s name to a ballot is a felony under state law, and spreading misinformation to purposefully interfere with our election and ballot-counting processes is criminal behavior that will not be tolerated. Michigan has multiple layers of review throughout our election process that make it very difficult for a bad actor to commit fraud, which is why it so seldom occurs.”  

    Nessel did shut down one false report of widespread voter fraud in the Upper Peninsula. The Attorney General’s office investigated one man’s claim that he completed and submitted roughly 300 voter ballots that had been sent to his rental properties for past tenants. The Marquette Police Department contacted the man and he denied doing what he said and admitted that the claim was only to stir people up on Facebook. Election officials were contacted and no fraud was substantiated.

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    In Detroit, another person posted on Facebook that he worked for Wayne County and threw out thousands of ballots from voters who supported President Trump. Nessel’s office investigated the incident and he later admitted that his statement was false.

    “These are important examples of our commitment to review, investigate and prosecute – if appropriate – any allegation of election fraud,” Nessel said. “By working with our partners in law enforcement and government at all levels, we will ensure the integrity of our elections is protected and the results accurately reflect the will of the people.” 

    Nessel is also working with the Michigan State Police, the Michigan Department of State and the Muskegon Police Department to investigate possible irregularities in voter registration forms both mailed and dropped off in-person in late September and October in the city of Muskegon.

    Nessel is encouraging anyone with evidence of specific allegations regarding election fraud to contact the Attorney General’s office at 517-335-7659 so that the claim can be investigated.

    Allison Donahue
    Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.