Friday, February 14, 2014

Guest Submission: About that Trial in Jersey City...it's Not A Voter Fraud Case

 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!

13 comments:

  1. Great piece. So it would seem that each and every resident who voted by mail that used Dio Braxton and Lizaida Camis to transport their ballot will have to testify individually? Wow! when word of that spreads, it will hopefully have a chilling effect on those who might in the future be willing to sell their votes.

    Has the judge addressed the "chain of custody" issue?

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  2. Oracle: Each voter that had their ballot transported by Dio Braxton or Lizaida Camis AND whose vote was rejected will have to testify. There were many VBM voters that had Braxton or Camis transport their ballot whose votes were counted and included in the original tally. These other voters would have to be subpoenaed by HFHA. Prior to the court contest being filed by MSTA-friendly plaintiffs, HFHA did not challenge any ballots as their side were the certified winners of the election and, had the shoe been on the other foot, they would not have challenged a 122 vote loss. As to your second question, I haven't been in the courtroom, but as far as I'm aware, thus far the only thing that the judge has addressed is the issue of mere certifications from the voters whose VBMs were rejected not being acceptable. For anyone interested, the trial resumes on Tuesday in Jersey City. The case is being heard by Judge Schultz. Interestingly, apparently Judge Schultz served in the criminal law division prior to serving in the civil law division....

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  3. the thing about the VBM issue is that it is becoming an extinct issue...as the 2nd ward continues to grow in size with new development and next will be the 5th ward with its future development, these VBM ballots are becoming a smaller and smaller part of the total voter turnout (in addition to the elections being moved to November). So over time this is going to be a none issue but I do understand the current frustration. Personally I would like to see the rent control laws changed in hoboken as I do believe it would give landlords the incentive to modernize their buildings but the election was won fair and square by HFHA so the result should stand. Honestly i think MSTA is looking like a sore loser by arguing in court while if they just wait a few years for the hoboke population to grow, they would probably win the vote outright.

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    1. The harvested votes are not by any means becoming an extinct issue. They dominate the 4th ward and since many citi-wide elections are decided by relatively narrow margins, they significantly raise the bar for honest candidates to win in city-wide elections. Peter Cammarano was elected by a harvested vote margin. In a two way race with Ramos supported by Raia, Ramos could also have been elected by a harvested vote margin. Harvested votes make it extremely hard for honest school board candidates to win even in November elections - the margin of victory in the two Nov SB elections held so far was quite small and that was with Obama and then Zimmer on the same ballot.

      Whatever you think of rent control - the partial repeal measure has lost twice now despite fraud on the other side. Let's work together to put an end to the nonsense and then let rent control and every other election issue be decided in free, fair and honest elections.

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  4. The harvested votes are EXACTLY the reason why Carmelo and Stack share the wet-dream of Vision 20/20: Create a large population who believe they are dependent on your largesse for things they have a right to and you have a large bloc of votes for every election. A perfect machine.

    And while the other wards may be growing, the voter turnout is not impressive in those wards and the corrupt old guard counts on a transient, apathetic population.

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  5. I would not say the HFHA won both elections fair and square with the scare tactics they used leading up to the election. They put out misinformation telling people they would lose their homes and that their landlords would harass them until they left.

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    1. Anonymous @ 7:34 - those were exactly the tactics used in the past. In addition to murder by arson. Why would you call that "misinformation". You're either paid by them, new to town or ignorant of the recent past - or all three. Some of us actually know the truth.

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    2. Oracle, you just don't recognize Ron Simoncini when you see him.

      Hi Ronnie! YOU JUST LOST, YOU EMPTY-HEADED WEASEL!

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    3. why can't I just be a guy who has no association to MSTA, who doesn't know who Ron S. is or any other member of that group. What I am is a very small time landlord (3 units) who treats my tenants with respect and consideration and consistently upgrades the property regardless of the fact that I barely break even every month. I saw the fliers the HFHA hung at places like the MAC and other spots on the west side of town saying..... "Vote no on question 1 or you will lose your home" BS. I'm neither paid ignorant or new. What I am, is someone who has been robbed and abused by Hoboken's rent control laws.

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  6. To say that VBMs are becoming irrelevant in Hoboken is sheer lunacy when the most recent election still shows a less than 50% showing for reform.

    I fear this is a case where the rats will just figure out the maze in the end.

    Let's start with one fact: every VBM from HHA in favor of weakening rent control is a bought vote. Period. I'm not even going to debate the merits of the ordinance. We are just talking about common sense here. Every damn one of those votes was paid for. We all know it.

    A number of them were accepted by the county. That is, illegal votes passed legal muster. All the rats need to do is to clear whatever low hurdles the county places in front of them. Maybe they have to work a little harder. Maybe they need to use more couriers.

    But it IS NOT a matter of whether they are legally prevented from buying votes. It is only a matter of HOW they do it. Law enforcement continues to turn a blind eye to a long entrenched practice whereby well-funded scumbags exploit the under-classes to take an enormous personal risk in exchange for some grocery money.

    All that will change after the dust settles, I fear, is the way it's done.

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    1. One must always remember that there is a small core of people in Hoboken who's families have made their living by corrupting the system.
      They will continue to do so. It is up to the rest of us to see that they are at very least contained.

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  7. Look let's be completely honest: There is no democracy in this country. It's all an illusion to give the appearance that it exists when it doesn't so people won't rebel. The truth is that large corporations own our government. They decide which candidates will run for office. After all, they own the media and they control the finances needed to finance a campaign. The fact that nearly 98% of Congress are corporate lawyers says everything. What corporations were they working for before, they came Congressman & Senators? Democracy is when everyone is equal and can run for office, but in this country it takes millions to run for office, which means only those who are financed by big corporations can do so. Unfortunately, this is the country we live in. I'm against, of course, voter fraud, but really its just a reflection of the larger problem in this country where even the Supreme Court with Citizens United, openly allows corporations to give as much to campaigns as possible.

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    1. We're talking about voter fraud in Hoboken - which has a democracy and a mayor and administration not owned by corporation. Yours is a rationale for sitting on your hands while feeling justified. I can't live that way.

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