JERSEY CITY – An attorney representing the campaign of Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy has filed a complaint with the state Attorney General questioning the integrity of vote-by-mail applications there were sent out by the campaign of City Councilman Steven Fulop.
Healy and Fulop are locked in a tight race for Jersey City mayor. Election Day is next Tuesday, May 14.
Questions were first raised about Fulop’s vote-by-[mail applications two weeks ago when Hudson County Freeholder Jeff Dublin said that some of his constituents approached him with concerns.
The applications, which have been widely circulated since then, include Fulop’s photo under his campaign logo, the tag line “A Mayor for All of Us,” and a return address for the councilman’s office. Elsewhere the application reads, “Vote Fulop for Mayor!” and includes the candidate’s campaign website address.
While it is common for candidates and political campaigns to encourage voters to vote early by absentee ballot, such political branding is usually not included on the applications. The return address for such applications is typically that of the Hudson County Board of Elections, which is part of the Hudson County Clerk’s office, not an address connected to a specific campaign.
Generally, a voter submits the application to the County Board of Elections and then receives an absentee ballot in the mail. The voter then fills out the ballot and returns it to County Board of Elections.
“Serious questions are raised by the Fulop campaign having anointed itself to be the repository for the return of these [vote-by-mail] applications,” reads the complaint by Healy attorney William W. Northgrave. “Aside from the fact that these applications are tainted for the foregoing reasons, one will never know which [vote by mail] applications received by the Fulop campaign as the as the return addressee, will ever see their light of day and be properly delivered to the County Clerk for processing.”
Northgrave’s complaint also alleges that some of the applications that he has seen appear to have been tampered with. For example, some instructions to the voter have been highlighted, while other instructions have been added that are not part of the vote by mail applications printed by the Hudson county Board of elections.
Northgrave’s three-page complaint is dated May 7. The Healy campaign is requesting a full inquiry into the matter.
The Fulop campaign responded to the allegations.
“Healy is citing a regulation that relates to absentee ballots, not [vote-by-mail applications],” said Fulop spokesman Bruno Tedeschi. “The vote-by-mail law was intended to make it easier for people to vote by mail. That’s why they can’t get anyone outside of their campaign to back up what they are saying in these frivolous press releases. And just to clarify, we are talking about VBM applications and not actual ballots. We do not handle ballots. Standard practice is that campaigns drop off [vote by mail] applications to the county clerk and the clerk sends the vote by mail ballot directly to the voter. The voter then sends it back to the county. The campaign never touches an actual ballot…This is no different than what the Healy campaign is doing. They are collecting applications in person, going door-to-door, at train stations etc. and taking them to the clerk.”
Tedeschi also alleged that the Fulop camp is circulating vote-by-mail applications to guard against what he called the “history” of such applications “disappearing” in the clerk’s office. – E. Assata Wright