Election official: Hoboken Vote by Mail investigation findings heading to Hudson County Prosecutor
MILE SQUARE VIEW EXCLUSIVE
Harper further described the Board of Elections investigation as a challenge considering the number of ballots involved and the limited time before Election Day when investigators had 48 hours to seek out individuals who submitted challenged VBM ballots.
“Of the ballot challenges, my board was fine with rejecting 55 of them in the investigation,” Harper said referring to Vote by Mail ballots. Overall 76 VBM ballots citywide were rejected for a variety of reasons: signatures not matching, breaking chain of custody requirements, etc.
Last February, a trial in Hudson County Superior Court challenging ballot question no. 1 on rent control in the November 2013 election led to testimony by associates linked to Frank “Pupie” Raia and an extensive VBM operation. The election challenge by the Mile Square Taxpayers Association was later dropped when Judge Francis Schultz determined over 170 VBM voters in the HHA would need to individually testify.
Funding for the VBM operation was linked to a Councilwoman Beth Mason supported political consulting firm, Bluewater Operations, which ran her 2011 council campaign. A subpoena had been issued requesting testimony to its possible role underwriting the Vote by Mail operation.
The testimony sought regarding Bluewater Operations did not materialize when MSTA threw in the towel in the controversial election challenge. Unlike the 2010 fourth ward special election, no NJ ELEC report was ever filed showing individual payments to “campaign workers” who may have also submitted Vote by Mail ballots.
Legal observers involved in the trial believe the monies underwriting the VBM operation came from a Raia backed “Let the People Decide committee” in two payments totaling over $20,000 to Bluewater Operations.
In 2010, MSV exclusively broke a series of stories on Vote by Mail abuse before and after the fourth ward special election which was picked up by PolitickerNJ and later by other media outlets including Hoboken Patch.
The controversy surrounding evidence of election fraud in that election saw Timmy Occhipinti elevated to occupy the fourth ward council seat with Beth Mason briefly vaunted into the chair of City Council President.
|Joe Branco (l) speaking at a Hoboken Housing Authority meeting. His challenge of 225
Vote by Mail got traction in a Hudson County election investigation.
Citywide Hoboken saw nearly 1,000 Vote by Mail requests with 996 the official number requested. Of those, 778 were returned. Among the total returned are some notable figures broken down below.
Efforts by Hudson County Board of Election investigators ruled 76 VBM ballots ineligible, of those 55 involved ballots challenged by the Parents for Change slate.
Hoboken Housing Authority locations are again the scene of disproportionate Vote by Mail ballots of Hoboken districts citywide. Areas of the HHA, the 4-3 produced 61 VBM of 79 sent. The 4-4, another HHA area submitted 49 VBM of 67 sent.
The 4-5 which includes Marian Towers was another significant VBM farm, showing almost 100 ballots sent with only a handful rejected by the county.
In contrast, Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s district, the 4-2, consisting of mostly working professionals saw 11 VBM requested with only six returned. Those totals are typical for many non-HHA locations in the fourth ward and similar to many districts across the Mile Square.
In the First ward, the senior building Colombian Towers generated and returned 27 Vote by Mail from among approximately three dozen requested. Some were not returned among the total but most not included in the tally were rejected primarily for having incomplete information on the person who “assisted” with the ballot.
Two BoE candidates, Peter Biancamano and Fran Rhodes-Kearns are believed the beneficiaries of approximately 400 Vote by Mail ballots with a core coming out of the Hoboken Housing Authority and select Senior Buildings. The county investigation appears focused on those Vote by Mail ballots.
The previous Saturday, Joe Branco representing the Parents for Change slate challenged over 200 ballots, zeroing in those out of the HHA on behalf of Carmelo Garcia’s backed BoE ticket.
Garcia himself was the recipient of hundreds of similar VBM votes out of the HHA when he ran on the Frank “Pupie” Raia Old Guard ticket with Peter Biancamano and Fran Rhodes-Kearns in 2011.
Separately, MSV can now confirm findings from the testimony in the Vote by Mail trial last February were forwarded to investigators in the US Department of Justice. In more than a day of testimony, MSV offered its findings investigating HHA VBM voter fraud in the 2013 election. Those findings were also turned over to the DOJ.
In 2013 on Election Day, MSV exclusively reported the DOJ opened an investigation into Hoboken’s municipal election.
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Correction: The number of votes challenged has been changed from 226 to 225.
Related: The 2010 PolitickerNJ story: