A 22-year-old Minneapolis man has been charged with felonies over accusations that he helped 13 people submit absentee ballots that were fraudulently cast for the 2018 election, then ultimately purged and never recast.
Abdihakim A. Essa was charged in Hennepin County District Court last week with intentionally making or signing a false certificate in the submission of the absentee ballots during a few weeks’ time in the summer before the Nov. 6, 2018, general election.
Essa told a suspicious election worker in the Hennepin County Government Center that he was working for a campaign and signing his father’s name as a witness on the ballots, according to the charges.
Essa is a legal U.S. resident but allegedly explained the forgeries were necessary because he’s not a citizen, while his father is a citizen and registered to vote, which are requirements for witnessing absentee ballots.
The campaign Essa was working for was not specified in the charges. The County Attorney’s Office declined to disclose that information, and Minneapolis police spokesman Garrett Parten said his review of investigatory reports did not identify the campaign, explaining that this detail “is outside the purview of the investigation.”
Police have tried at least twice to locate Essa without success. Authorities now have a warrant out for his arrest.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Amin Aar identified himself as Essa’s father and said he and his son are declining comment.
Essa’s alleged scheme unraveled on July 30, 2018, more than a month after he signed the first suspicious ballot.
According to the charges:
Essa arrived at the voting area in the government center, where two election workers recognized him from visiting several times over the previous few weeks. Acting as a “helper,” Essa had with him a woman seeking to register to vote, but she did not have the proper identification and was told to come back with the correct information.
The woman returned but had someone else with her to assist, and the address on her identification didn’t match the address she presented initially. The workers decided to find Essa and located him on the government center’s ground level, and that’s when he explained that he was forging his father’s name on other peoples’ absentee ballot submissions.
This admission prompted election officials to inspect roughly 9,000 absentee ballots, and they turned up 13 with the signature forged by Essa.
The people who cast those votes were notified in writing that their ballots were rejected, and they were invited to vote again. None did so.
Despite being confronted, Essa returned to the government center the next day and attempted to submit an absentee ballot with his father’s name. Someone asked him whether an election worker spoke to him the prior day. Essa “got nervous and acted as if he didn’t speak English” before explaining that he left his identification in his car. He left with the ballot application and did not return.