Dearborn Heights City Clerk Facing Allegations of Misconduct Toward Arab American Voters Backpeddles Resignation


August 2, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Advocacy groups to monitor polls in Dearborn Heights

Dearborn Heights— Advocacy groups said Saturday they would provide poll monitors and a hotline to report complications during the primary election after allegations of voter suppression in Dearborn Heights.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and other coalition groups have set up a hotline, (866) OUR-VOTE, voters can call if there are any problems on Election Day on Tuesday. The move comes after advocates say they have lost faith in the state government to handle the claims of voter suppression.

“Sadly, and what seems to be the case today, the number one response historically to valid claims of voter suppression is the all-too-common story of voter fraud,” ADC Michigan director Fatina Abdrabboh said at a press conference outside the Dearborn Heights city hall. “The claims of voter fraud were levied just yesterday, and weeks after the claims were brought to the ADC office.”

City Clerk Walter Prusiewicz issued a statement Saturday in response to the allegations against him.

“I will not comment further on any of these attacks that have been made against me except to say that I have done nothing wrong and I welcome any oversight by the state of my actions and the upcoming election and any investigation into my conduct at city clerk,” his statement said. “I have nothing to hide and I firmly believe that any investigation will conclude that I did nothing more than properly discharge my duties as the Dearborn Heights city clerk.”

A letter from Sally Williams, director of the Election Liaison Division at the Michigan Bureau of Elections, addressing the concerns of the ADC and other groups was issued Friday. In the letter, Williams says it is “not possible for us to confirm whether violations have occurred.”

“While the clerk indicates that there have been delays in processing due to the large numbers of applications that have been delivered in multiple batches, he contends that ballots for all eligible voters who requested (absentee voter) ballots have been distributed,” the letter says.

Last week, the ADC’s Michigan office said Arab-American voters were prevented from obtaining absentee ballots. The claims sparked outrage from the community and calls to remove Prusiewicz. ADC Michigan also is seeking an investigation.

This week, Prusiewicz reported to the state attorney general, Michigan Bureau of Elections and the Wayne County prosecutor what he described as potential voter fraud and campaign irregularities involving about 250 absentee ballot applications dropped off at his office. In the letter, he said both batches were from men who appeared associated with the campaign of state Rep. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, who is running for the 5th Senate District seat in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Prusiewicz also acknowledged that the applicants “appear to be of Arab American descent.”

It is illegal to solicit voters to fill out absentee ballot applications in the same manner voter registration drives are conducted, state officials said.

Based on the information presented by ADC Michigan and Prusiewicz, “it appears clear that hundreds of (absentee voter) ballot requests have been illegally handled, solicited from voters, and submitted to the clerk’s office by a small number of individuals,” Williams wrote in her letter Friday. “The investigation of these issues is ongoing and may result in criminal charges against those involved.”

Williams also said the bureau would have staff monitor part of the election in the city on Tuesday and takes any allegations of wrongdoing “very seriously.” Clear violations would be referred to the attorney general or other appropriate authorities, she wrote.

Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, has said state officials were reviewing Prusiewicz’s complaint.

Knezek issued a statement denying his campaign’s involvement and said the clerk’s allegations were “an attempt to damage my credibility on the eve of a major election.” He added Friday that he welcomes an investigation and “I look forward to cooperating every step of the way.”

Meanwhile, civil rights and advocacy groups remain wary of alleged discrimination and are asking federal authorities to take action.

On Saturday, Abdrabboh was joined by Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nabih Ayad, chair of the Arab-American Civil Rights League, Bishop Walter Starghill, from the Western Wayne branch of the NAACP, and community members who say they have been denied the opportunity to vote.

“My husband and I submitted for our absentee ballots two weeks ago,” said Lola Elzein, “I got mine in two days — note my name is Lola — while my husband Wissam hasn’t still hasn’t received his.”

The two are going out of town tomorrow, which means her husband will not have an opportunity to vote in the election, she said.

Angela Moughni, a 13-year resident of Dearborn Heights, voted absentee five minutes before the press conference began Saturday. Prior to that, she had received a letter saying her signature on her petition for an absentee voter ballot did not match city records, so she was denied. Her mother, who also tried to get an absentee ballot, received a similar letter, except that hers said her address did not match the one the city has on file. The family has not moved from their house and her mother has voted in plenty of other elections in the past with the same address, said Moughani.

“You just start to have doubts about what is going on, said Moughni. “You just don’t expect this to happen today. It’s 2014, you’d think we be beyond this.”


Arab & Muslim voting in this election


  • 50:00
    Stateside for October 30, 2012


Today we spoke to Nadia Tonova, who is with the National Network for Arab American Communities, and Dawud Walid, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Both guests weighed in on the upcoming election.

Worried about Sandy’s effects on Michigan? Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the Weather Underground, helps forecast the coming weather.

Judge Shelia Johnson weighs in on her Supreme Court candidacy.

Governor Romney’s ad featuring Jeep has been the focus of recent debate.  David Shepardson, the Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief, discusses how both candidates have massaged their share of facts.

Ambivalent about their treatment in the election, Muslims still politically engaged

Ambivalent about their treatment in the election,

Muslims still politically engaged

City of Dearborn officials expect large turnout at the polls today

When former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama last month, he cited an election issue that has troubled many American Muslim for months.

“It is permitted to be said such things as, ‘Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, ‘He’s not a Muslim, he’s a Christian,’ ” Powell said on Meet the Press on Oct. 19. “But the really right answer is, ‘What if he is?’ Is there anything wrong with being a Muslim in America?”

The Muslim faith has been a prominent issue throughout the campaign. Polls have shown that more than 10 percent of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim. Even conservative commentators have made reference to the Illinois senator’s middle name, Hussein, to suggest that he is Muslim even though he has long been a member of a Christian church.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the state chapter of the nonpartisan Council on American Islamic Relations, said Muslims have been disappointed with the way the word “Muslim” has been used in a derogatory sense during the election cycle. Despite their disappointment, Walid and Muslim leaders at the University of Michigan believe Muslims will play an active role in today’s election.

Many Muslims were offended when two Muslim women wearing traditional Islamic headscarves were barred from appearing behind Obama at a rally at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Obama later called the two women to apologize, and publicly expressed regret about the incident.

LSA senior Yamaan Saadeh, president of the Muslim Student Association at the University’s Ann Arbor campus, said he thought Obama’s apology repaired most of the damage done. He said the event was a “turning point,” after which the campaign was more aware of how it was received by Muslims.

There’s no available data on Muslim voter registration in Michigan, but Dearborn City Clerk Kathleen Buda said about 60,600 people are registered to vote in the heavily Islamic city, up about 2,000 from four years ago. At the University’s Dearborn campus, the Muslim Student Association last week invited Walid to speak at an event titled Our Role in Politics.

Anticipating large turnout, Buda’s office purchased 500 portable “privacy booths” to be distributed to the city’s 50 polling places. Buda said her office has also arranged to have five to seven workers at each poll, when in the past some only had three.

Saadeh predicted a large Muslim turnout this year, though he said the organization hasn’t been politically engaged this year. Senior Majed Afana, president of MSA at the Dearborn campus, echoed Saadeh’s prediction, saying many MSA members there had been working with the Obama and McCain campaigns.

Saadeh said he felt the McCain campaign has offended Muslims more than the Obama campaign, but that neither campaign has embraced the group.

“The Muslim community was pretty disappointed with Obama for, I don’t know how to say it, but not intellectually denying it the way that Colin Powell did,” Saadeh said, referring to Obama’s strong denials that he is Muslim.

But Saadeh said he didn’t think Obama’s handling of the issue hurt him in the race because he feels harsh treatment of Muslims is common.

“We’re used to that kind of rhetoric,” he said. “It wasn’t really much of a surprise because the rhetoric in the media over the last seven years has been very anti-Muslim.”

Walid said he felt Obama’s campaign was still treating Muslims better than his opponent’s.

“The McCain campaign has spent virtually zero time in reaching out to Muslims,” he said. “In the 2004 election, the Muslim community overwhelmingly voted for John Kerry over George Bush, and similarly, I believe that people are supporting Obama more so as a vote against McCain.”

Interview with Moroccan national tv regarding 2008 election

Moroccan National television interviewed 4 community members and myself regarding the Muslim community sentiments during this election cycle.  3 are pro-Obama, and 1 is pro-McCain.  The discussion became very interesting when the pro-McCain Muslim entered into the conversation.

The link below is the unedited audio: