JERSEY CITY - Amid allegations of voter "disenfranchisement," residents in downtown Jersey City are bracing for what could be a chaotic and confusing Board of Education election tomorrow.
Last week, registered voters in Jersey City received their sample ballots for the Board of Education election and several downtown residents who were recently redistricted from Ward E to Ward F discovered they've been reassigned to new polling stations that are far from their homes. In some cases, the new polling station is a mile or more away from where residents live.
"Jersey City District F-28 was inadvertently misplaced in the wrong polling location during the re-warding and redistricting process," Brian Cardino of the Hudson County Board of Elections explained. "The Hudson County Board of Elections has decided to move the polling location to its proper location at P.S. #9, 222 Mercer St. This is the location that the vast majority of the voters have voted at previously, and we feel this is the best way to ensure maximum voter participation. Any voter [who] attempts to vote at P.S.
#11,111 Tuers Ave., which was printed incorrectly on their sample ballots, will be directed to the correct polling location, or be given a provisional ballot which will be processed, counted and reported by this office. We are sorry about the confusion this has caused."
Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop, who represents downtown and who has endorsed three of the eight candidates running for the board, is concerned the confusion could impact the outcome of what is shaping up to be a tight race.
The eight candidates running include Vidya Gangadin, Marilyn Roman, Sangeeta Ranade, Gerald Lyons, Frank Lorenzo, Amanda Khan, DeJon Morris, and Jayson Burg.
Gangadin, Roman, and Ranade are running together on a slate that has been endorsed by Fulop. A rival slate that includes Lyons, Lorenzo, and Khan, has been endorsed by the Jersey City Education Association, Hudson County Freeholder Eliu Rivera, state Assemblyman and former board member Sean Connors, and state Assemblyman Charles Mainor. Most recently Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy has also thrown his support behind the Lyons-Lorenzo-Khan ticket.
Healy and Fulop will face each other in the 2013 Jersey City mayoral race.
Morris and Burg are running independently and are not part of any slates.
Post election political balance
For the last two years candidates backed by Fulop easily sailed to victory in the Board of Education races. If Gangadin, Roman, and Ranade were to win tomorrow's election, the entire nine-member school board will be allied with Fulop. Some residents fear a sweep by this trio tomorrow will give Fulop too much influence over the school board.
However, the councilman has in the past said he is trying to help the best candidates for the school board get elected. Last year, for example, he stated, "As a passionate advocate for education reform, I believe there should be no political ward map or geographic boundary where the education system is concerned. Our children and their education must be the No. 1 priority."
In 2010 and 2011, Fulop's pitch worked with voters, who sent his choice candidates to the school board. With the redistricting-related polling place changes, Fulop is concerned the confusion could affect tomorrow's outcome.
"Voters from several of our historically largest supporting districts recently received sample ballots showing their polling places having been relocated."
Fulop told supporters in an e-mail Monday. "The Board of Elections released an apology, but the damage is done, and the confusion persists. In a tough election like this every vote counts."
The councilman is telling downtown residents to go to the polling locations they've used in the past and ask to vote provisionally. He is also promising to organize rides for redistricted downtown votes who want to vote in their reassigned polling stations.
"We will have drivers ready at voting locations to take people easily to the new polling place if necessary," Fulop told his constituents. "You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any issues or if you need to be picked up and taken to the voting location."
Cardino said any residents who still have questions can call him in the office at (201) 369-3435, ext. 2857 or on his cell phone at (201) 893-8978. - E. Assata Wright