Horse Sense: All eyes on the Board of Elections

Hudson County has a well deserved reputation for being home base of the Soprano State and for good reason.  All its government institutions serve each other and if one were to suggest the Hudson County Board of Elections is uniquely separate from that designation, you’d be wrong.

Anticipated is the criminal referrals and what ballots will trigger what outcome being sent over to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.  It’s not clear what and who may be involved – rule breaking of the lesser variety or larger and more sinister violations.

The arrogance displayed leading into, during and after the election from certain players in the last election is a textbook study on the lack of fear from any oversight in election law in this county when it comes to electoral fraud.  Rampant payment for votes demonstrated in obvious statistical probability voting models didn’t move the County to voice concerns and deeper review.  That gave the campaign in question – Tim Occhipinti’s reason to believe there won’t be any significant repercussions.

So as the Occhipinti campaign repeatedly spurned any calls for a “clean campaign,” as David Cruz the spokesman called “campaign silliness,” and Tim Occhipinti repeated as a talking point (he used it in the Hudson Reporter debate,) his recent counsel campaign position any fraud was not sanctioned is a delicious tidbit as we await details of the criminal referrals expected any time now.

NJ Attorney General Paula Dow: the key for Hoboken?

Not to paint too bleak a picture, there happens to be a new sheriff in town in Trenton, the focus and pressure not to allow officials to sweep election problems under the rug may require like the Cammarano affair to come from the bottom up, and the top down.

The Lenz for Council campaign is pressing its case for about 200 suspect ballots with numerous problems ranging from voters not being residents of Hoboken or the 4th ward, people who are not listed on a lease in the HHA and the always important bring out ye dead vote.  All of these problems have been tediously researched and brought to the attention of the Board of Elections.  The reaction was non-pulsed but a little oversight from the State Attorney General’s office could go a long way.

You don’t need a microscope to see there’s some serious ongoing problems in the vote by mail factory in Hoboken’s corner of the fourth ward in the Housing Authority.  What happens now will be of strong interest to the participating campaigns and future ones.  The discarding already of over 90 ballots in the special election is unheard of in Hoboken and represents a major first.  But what comes next is critical.

Since there’s relatively little interest so far, even with substantial evidence of problems on multiple levels, (it’s said there are votes for Occhipinti with major obstacles – some voters have been obviously dead for a while) the can will be kicked over to the next bastion of Hudson County institutional sleepy eyed election oversight – the prosecutor’s office.

Now what ballots are deemed noteworthy for criminal referral is unknown but it’s thought to be multiple.  Investigators from the Board of Elections were in Hoboken leading in and on the day of the election asking questions.  There’s rumors suggesting the questions were more warning than inquiring.  “We must ask you about any payment made to you as a campaign worker.  If you were paid for your vote, we must warn you this would lead to the authorities seeking your arrest.  Now having been warned of this, were you paid for your vote?”

Word is, the State Attorney General Paula Dow has been notified and her office has a full gambit of violations.  But it’s not the sexiest of cases and does it rise to the level of her list of important items?  No one can say exactly but New Jersey is a big state and Hoboken was merely a blip with a small special election.  Then again, Hoboken is in Hudson County.  Gov. Chris Christie and his friends have made multiple sweeps to round up the usual cast of politically corrupt figures.  Can they muster some enthusiasm to make another round?  Or does this get added to another list for further probing at a later date?  Operation Bid Rig was a ten year investigation.  Sleep with one eye open fellows.

A telling point will be what type of charges are alleged.  If it’s chain of custody problems for one or two people, then this is going to die a quiet death.  Can you say not sexy?  But if we get something of substance with multiple names in the mix, well then now we’re talking.

So although it appears the election is just over and things have quieted down, the question is will the lengthy list of problems be swept under the rug (again) or will there finally be some justice for the election cancer eating away at this town?

The answer is going to be self-evident in short order.

Talking Ed Note/Update:  Katie Colaneri at the Jersey Journal has posted a story today with details of the Board of Elections meeting to be held publicly on the matter of criminal referrals.

The suspicions of multiple problems is now confirmed as at least four!

Councilman Ravi Bhalla says in her story, “We have received information within the last 24 hours that evidence we compiled for the basis of the investigation by the Superintendent of Elections has resulted in not just one criminal referral to the Hudson County Prosecutor, but several referrals. At least four.”

The bravado from Tim Occhipinti’s counsel (and his campaign) has now been replaced with a more gentlemanly statement of cooperation.  Here’s what they said leading into the election on the Occhipinti for Council website:

Tim Occhipinti’s campaign website on electoral fraud issues earlier – not bogus any more is it.

The meeting will take place at 4 p.m. November 17th next Wednesday at the offices of the Board of Elections located in Hudson County Plaza, 257 Cornelison Ave., 4th floor, in Jersey City.  This meeting is open to the public.

See Katie Colaneri’s full story at the Jersey Journal.

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