Southfield clerk will go to trial on six felony charges

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Editor's note: This story was corrected to indicate the clerk is accused of altering qualified voter records tied to absentee ballots, not the ballots themselves.

A Southfield city clerk was bound over for trial on six felonies involving falsifying absentee ballot records in 2018, the Michigan Attorney General's Office said Thursday. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (left) holds news conference on election fraud charges against Southfield City Clerk Sherikia L. Hawkins, who is charged with six felony counts tied to her handling of the November 2018 election.

Southfield Clerk Sherikia Hawkins is alleged to have altered 193 qualified voter file records  during the 2018 general election. 

“The voters of our state deserve a process that is unobstructed," said Attorney General Dana Nessel in a news release. “That is why I am committed to doing everything in my power to protect our elections from every conceivable threat. The foundation of our democracy depends on it."

Hawkins, 38, faces up to 48 years if convicted of all six felonies, which include election law – falsifying returns/records; forgery of a public record; misconduct in office; and three counts of using a computer to commit a crime involving falsifying returns/records, forgery of a public record and misconduct in office. 

Judges in the 46th District Court in Southfield disqualified themselves from Hawkins' preliminary examination. A judge from the 45th District Court in Oak Park will conduct the hearing. 

According to an affidavit filed by Michigan State Police detective Sgt. Larissa LaMay, Oakland County elections director Joseph Rozell first noticed that the files were altered.

When an absentee ballot arrives at a clerk's office, it is logged into the Qualified Voter File. The clerk then checks to make sure the file entries are valid.

Rozell "contacted Hawkins when he noticed that ballot summary sheets were blank," LaMay's report notes.

Rozell, after questioning Hawkins about her ballot sheets, said it appeared "that the ballot return dates for voters were added or removed from the report in order to force the reports to balance to the number of ballots tabulated for each precinct on Election Night."

"It appears that Hawkins had switched her original reports with altered reports," LaMay wrote. 

When charges were announced in September, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said the alleged actions did not alter the outcome of any election.

"There were no voters that were disenfranchised," Benson said.

"All valid votes in the election were ultimately counted and the final official vote total was accurate."