Lexington, NE.—A plea deal in a rare case of vote fraud is in the works, according to court records examined by News Channel Nebraska.
As NCN first reported two Somali-speaking men, 37-year-old Ali A. Abdullahi and 26-year-old Shueb A. Ali—both have pleaded not guilty—are accused of voting “more than once” in last year’s presidential election.
As the case moves closer to trial the men’s attorney, Derek Mitchell, has filed a motion in court noting among other things that “a plea offer has been made.”
The men, who were simply ticketed and not booked into the county jail, are scheduled to stand trial April 21. If convicted each faces up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
In an earlier interview with News Channel Nebraska, Mitchell said he wants to learn more about double-voting cases which appear to be few and far between in Nebraska. Mitchell said both men are U.S. citizens who made a simple mistake and did not intend to do anything wrong.
Derek Mitchell: “I think it was a mistake. I think what happened is they went into register and I believe they voted at that time. And then later they received something in the mail saying here’s your polling place so they then went and voted.
NCN: They weren’t aware that you can’t vote twice?
Derek Mitchell: Or that they voted the first time, that that was the vote. Maybe they thought they were registering, I just don’t know.
Dawson County Election Commissioner Karla Zlatkovsky says the men handed in so-called early votes at the end of October and then showed up at the polls on Election Day to vote again. She says that’s when poll workers discovered the attempted double vote, although the men insisted they did not vote twice.
Asked if a language barrier could have confused the men Zlatkovsky said, “They did not have a problem understanding us.”
Although both men have had an interpreter in court, Mitchell doesn’t think language was a problem either.
Mitchell and the Dawson County Attorney have not returned News Channel Nebraska’s requests for comments on the possible plea.
According to court records, both Somalians have Nebraska driver’s licenses. Somalia is one of six Muslim-majority countries targeted in President Trump’s immigration order intended to bar individuals from certain African and Mideast nations from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days—federal courts have put the ban on hold.
News Channel Nebraska’s investigation first uncovered the case as President Trump was insisting that millions of illegal votes across the country cost him the popular vote against Hillary Clinton.
The Nebraska Secretary of State’s office tells News Channel Nebraska that out of 860,000 votes cast in the state last fall the two Class IV felony charges in Lexington are the only cases of possible vote fraud under investigation. Estimates find the two cases representing 0.00023 percent of the total vote.
Six years ago three voters were accused of casting double-votes in the recall election of then-Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle but following an investigation, which found human error not fraud, no charges were filed.
The latest vote fraud charges come as State Sen. John Murante, Chairman of the Legislature’s Government Committee, is pushing a plan requiring all Nebraska voters to show a photo ID.
According to his proposed constitutional amendment which would require a vote of the people,” In order to combat voter fraud…to preserve the public confidence in the legitimacy of the elected government, each voter shall present identification that contains a photograph or digital image of the voter…”
Murante has indicated he’d favor free state-ID’s for those who need them.
Critics, convinced vote fraud is not a problem, argue free ID’s could cost taxpayers millions.
Murante’s bill is expected to be heard by the full legislature but no date has been set.
Asked how common attempts to double-vote are in Dawson County, the Election Commissioner tells News Channel Nebraska, “It hasn’t happened here before.”
Follow Joe Jordan on Twitter.