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Nessel charges man who filled out daughter's ballot as part of election crackdown

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced she had issued five cease and desist letters to groups "on both sides of the political aisle" that are posting deceptive or misleading information about the Nov. 3 election. 

The Friday press release also announced charges against a Canton Township man accused of forging a signature on an absentee ballot. The case is proof, Nessel said, that her office does act on election fraud when there are legitimate concerns.

“These actions highlight my office’s commitment to pursuing, investigating and charging, when necessary, election fraud,” the first-term attorney general said. "... 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.”  

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has announced various effort to crack down on election fraud and election misinformation. She is pictured here in October 2020 at an unrelated press conference in Northville.

Among the cease and desist letters issued was one to Big League Politics, which Nessel's office said posted misinformation about Detroit poll worker training online. 

The video, the Plymouth Democrat said, "contained heavily edited audio recording of what was reportedly a poll worker training session taken out of context to convey a fraudulent message."

Nessel would not release additional information on the other cease and desist orders, citing ongoing criminal investigations.

The misinformation is being investigated as voter intimidation, "used to undermine the integrity of the election and get people to not vote," she said.

Nessel also charged a Canton Township man accused of completing, signing and submitting his daughter's absentee voter ballot. 

Paul Parana, 47, was arraigned Friday in Plymouth on a count of forging a signature on an absentee ballot and impersonating another to vote at an election. The charges carry five- and four-year penalties, respectively. 

"The incident was reported to the Michigan Department of State, which is continuing its investigation, and sent to the attorney general’s office for prosecution and further investigation," the press release said. "The illegal ballot was voided prior to the election."  

Nessel's office also has investigated and found to be false allegations that one man in Marquette completed and submitted about 300 absentee voter ballots sent to his rental properties. The man had posted the claim on Facebook but recanted when contacted by police. 

A Michigan Bureau of Elections audit of the November 2016 election found that 31 voters throughout the state apparently had voted twice — once by absentee and once in person. None of the 31 voters were prosecuted.

Prior to the November election, Nessel also charged Democratic Southfield Clerk Sherikia Hawkins with several charges related to fraudulent alterations to the qualified voter file in 2018. Her case is ongoing, and Hawkins still serves as the Southfield clerk.

Conservative activists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were bound over for trial in late October on charges related to robocalls allegedly designed to intimidate African American voters in Detroit.

State officials also are investigating what they call "irregularities in voter registration forms" in Muskegon but have provided few other details of the investigation. 

The Muskegon city clerk reported the problems to the Michigan Bureau of Elections, which forwarded the issue to Nessel's office and the Michigan State Police, State Police spokeswoman Shanon Banner said Friday.  

The investigation was prompted by "reported irregularities in voter registration forms both mailed and dropped off in-person in quantity in late September and October 2020," Banner said. 

"None of the irregular voter registrations in Muskegon resulted in voters receiving absentee ballots, any resulting registrations have been voided, and there is no expected impact on any election," she said.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com