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Unsuccessful Sterling Heights Council Candidate Charged with Election Fraud

LANSING – An unsuccessful candidate for Sterling Heights City Council now faces felony charges related to ballot application forgeries, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today.

Paul Manni, 27, of Sterling Heights, is charged with the following in Macomb County’s 41-A District Court:

  • nine counts of forging a signature on an absent voter ballot application, five-year felonies; and
  • nine counts of making a false statement on an absent voter ballot application, 90-day misdemeanors.

He was arraigned August 5.

The charges stem from the November 2021 election.

Leading up to the election, the City Clerk for Sterling Heights became suspicious when a candidate for city council – Manni – personally dropped off approximately 50 absentee voter applications with his signature and an indication that he was delivering the applications at the voters’ request. 

Nine of the voters included in the applications were reached by clerk staff to verify if they did, in fact, wish to apply for an absentee ballot. Each of the nine individuals advised they did not seek to apply for an absentee ballot.

The Clerk then contacted the Bureau of Elections (BOE) to report the suspected fraud, which prompted an investigation. When that investigation was complete, it was referred to the Department of Attorney General (DAG) for evaluation.

To be clear, none of the applications turned in by Manni resulted in a valid ballot going to the voter.

“These charges prove the state’s signature matching standards and other election security checks and balances catch instances of wrongdoing, prompt thorough investigations and result in appropriate action,” Nessel said. “I appreciate our ongoing partnership with the BOE to root out attempts to undermine our elections.”

Procedurally, reports of voter fraud are often first reported to local law enforcement or the BOE for initial investigation, and then routed to the Michigan State Police or to DAG if investigators believe criminal activity occurred.

A probable cause conference is scheduled for August 18 at 1:00 p.m.  

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Please note: A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The Department does not provide booking photos.