by Cheryl Falick
Recently there were a couple of inflammatory comments on a story covered on Grafix Avenger about a subpoena issued to Blue Water in connection with the 2013 election contest on Hoboken Ballot Question #1. Those comments were not made on behalf of Hoboken Fair Housing Association (HFHA) or by anyone that was speaking on behalf of HFHA.
To provide the readers of Grafix Avenger with a little more information, HFHA did not initiate the litigation and the case is not a voter fraud case. Several weeks ago supporters of the developer/real estate investors’ group, MSTA, initiated an election contest in an effort to overturn the 2013 election results on Hoboken Ballot Question #1 which would have weakened rent control regulations in Hoboken. They were asking the courts to review 223 rejected VBM ballots and have those ballots counted in the final election tally. Over 180 of those 223 ballots had one of two bearers listed on the outside of the ballot and most of those 180+ were rejected due to what is called ‘incomplete assistor portion.’ This means that there was an indication that someone assisted the voter and this was not disclosed on the VBM certification. A bearer (listed on the outside of the ballot) is a person that transports the ballot for the voter; an assistor aids someone in actually voting the ballot. (For example, a blind person may need someone to actually fill out the ballot for them.)
Both of the bearers of the 180+ ballots were listed on campaign reports and worked for the Let the People Decide Campaign (Frank Raia pac.) It is our understanding that, typically in such an election contest, the individual voters must come in and testify about their individual vote; however, the developer/real estate interest groups’ attorney attempted to have the court accept certifications only from those VBM voters. This is where the case becomes interesting. HFHA’s attorney proffered information to the courts that these ballots necessitated more scrutiny than mere certifications. HFHA also provided a witness list of individuals that could provide the court with more information on Hoboken VBMs and a list of people that they intended to subpoena. The list to be subpoenaed included Blue Water, the firm that was spotlighted here on Grafix Avenger and on Mile Square View. The witness list included Hoboken’s own Smarty Jones and Councilman Bhalla among others. Smarty Jones, who was on the stand for 1.5 days, testified to his knowledge about Hoboken’s VBM based on his investigations for his blog and conversations with Hoboken residents over the last few years. Councilman Bhalla mostly provided additional historic context by answering questions about the 2010 council election between former Councilman Michael Lenz and Councilman Tim Occhipinti. Both of the ballot bearers, Dio Braxton and Lizaida Camis testified on behalf of the plaintiffs and, at this time, Lizaida Camis has not completed her testimony. Owing to the testimony to date, the judge ruled that there are too many questions and improprieties and, therefore, the court would not accept voter certifications and that the individual voters must take the stand.
HFHA was granted intervention to allow the certified winners a seat at the table and HFHA maintains the position that the ballots in question were legitimately rejected by the Board of Elections. HFHA, thus far, is the only defendant (as intervener) that has insisted on full (actually any) scrutiny of the process surrounding Hoboken’s VBMs. HFHA has prevailed in, not one, but two elections and finds it disgraceful that the developer/real estate interests group is now trying to overturn this second election victory with the harvested VBMs that can, and often have impacted the outcome of every Hoboken election. While Hoboken Ballot Question #1 was a vote on rent control, HFHA also believes that this election contest has much broader ramifications for every Hoboken voter as we as a citizenry cannot allow the deplorable election chicanery that goes on election after election after election to rise to new levels. Harvested votes are disgraceful in the first place, to allow them to be used as is attempted in this election contest is beyond disgraceful.
As the case is ongoing, it is as yet unknown what will happen with the 2013 certified election results and what this spotlight that the case is shining on Hoboken’s VBM may mean but, one thing is clear…this contest may represent the best opportunity to expose VBM fraud in Hoboken and put the first (or last) nail in that coffin. We would like to thank all of the good citizens of Hoboken for supporting our efforts to not only maintain our election victory, but for standing with us and many others in town that want to see an end to election corruption in Hoboken once and for all.
GA Note: Thanks so much Cheryl for enlightening me and others!