ADC looking into claims of voter discrimination

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Photo by Bob Oliver
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Director Fatina Abdrabboh (center) holds up an example envelope that Dearborn Heights Heights residents receive their absentee ballots in from the city clerk’s office. The ADC is investigating allegations of voter discrimination from several Arabic residents in the city, including Christina Hamoud (left) and Jessica Bazzi, who have said they submitted their applications for absentee ballots for the Aug. 5 primary election but did not receive them.

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is looking into allegations of voter discrimination in the city clerk’s office for the Aug. 5 primary election.

ADC Director Fatina Abdrabboh said the organization has received several complaints from Arabic residents alleging that the city “deliberately prevented many of them from submitting absentee ballots for the upcoming elections while they were vacationing.”

Abdrabboh said the organization has reached out to city officials for an explanation and are also asking for assistance from the FBI and the state attorney general’s office for an investigation into the matter.

“Voting is a cornerstone of democracy and Arab-Americans will not stand by and allow this fundamental right to be violated by any city government anywhere,” Abdrabboh said. “This shouldn’t happen anywhere and it isn’t just an Arab issue, it’s is a civil rights issue.”

At a ADC press conference held at its office, 930 Mason in Dearborn, Thursday, Abdrabboh announced the allegations and had two residents with her who said they mailed in their applications for absentee ballots but hadn’t received a response from the city.

“If we don’t take a stand we will be letting someone take our vote away from us,” Christina Hamoud said. “By taking away my right to vote they are taking away my voice.”

Hamoud said that she and three others adults at her residence mailed in their applications but they have not received their ballots though non-Arab neighbors had.

Jessica Bazzi also said she turned in an application but didn’t receive the ballot and said that she hopes the incident is investigated.

“As an American, I have a right to exercise my vote,” Bazzi said.

The press conference came two days after Heights City Clerk Walter Prusiewicz announced in a letter to the City Council that he would be resigning from his position Aug. 28.

According to a published report, Prusiewicz said he had never discriminated against any voters in the city and that his decision to step down was not connected with the allegations from the ADC but because the city was “broke.”

Prusiewicz was appointed by the council to fill a vacancy in 2011 and has been re-elected to the position twice since then, most recently when he ran unopposed for the position in the city’s general election last November.

Calls to Prusiewicz were not returned by press time.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)