The race is a do-over of the June 12 City Council runoff between Dawn Zimmer and Christopher Campos (see cover story). Zimmer won the runoff by eight votes, but both candidates subsequently brought up allegations of voting improprieties.
Now, disturbing allegations have been reported to the county Board of Elections by both campaigns regarding absentee ballots in the new race, and about registration records. Absentee ballots allow residents to vote in advance of Election Day.
Both campaigns ask county to investigate
So far, both candidates' campaigns have "challenged" a total of approximately 63 voters and voter records. This means that they have officially asked the superintendent of the County Board of Elections to investigate.
The Campos campaign has challenged nine absentee ballot applications that have already been handed to the county, and the Zimmer campaign has challenged approximately 54 voter registration records.
Both campaigns are pointing to addresses where the voters are registered but may not actually live. One campaign also charged that a few of the registered voters have criminal histories that might prevent them from being allowed to vote.
Absentee ballot questions
One troubling aspect of the election comes from absentee ballots.
To date, the County Clerk's office has sent out approximately 230 absentee ballots for the upcoming 4th Ward election, according to documents provided last week by the county clerk's office.
More than 90 of those ballots have already been returned to the Board of Elections, according to documents obtained from the county Board of Elections in Jersey City.
Absentee ballot votes were pivotal in Zimmer's narrow defeat over Campos in the June runoff. She won by eight votes, receiving 146 absentee ballots compared with Campos' 49. Absentee ballots have also been critical in many other Hoboken elections, as they allow candidates to secure votes beforehand.
The candidates' reactions
On Tuesday, Campos' advisor and former Jersey City Mayor Gerald McCann filed a complaint with the Superintendent of the Board of Elections, requesting an investigation into absentee ballot requests (of which two ballots have already been sent in) by nine individuals who he said appear not to live at the addresses listed with their voter registration.
All nine of the individuals, whose applications were dropped off to the county clerk's office on Friday, Oct. 19 by Zimmer Campaign Manager Jenny Davis, were registered at addresses in the federally funded Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA).
Jocelin Laganson, senior clerk at the county clerk's office, confirmed last week that Davis dropped off 81 applications on the 19th.
McCann would not know whom the voters actually voted for, as the ballots are private, but it is assumed that when a campaign manager drops off ballots, they are more likely to be for her candidate than for the opponent.
According to HHA Executive Director Bob DiVincent, none of the nine individuals named in McCann's complaint are on the leases for the addresses where they registered. And none were recently evicted, to the best of his knowledge. This means that officially, they do not live in those apartments, although they could have moved in illegally without being added to the lease. HHA regulations require everyone living in an apartment to be listed on the HHA lease.
And McCann presented affidavits from several other individuals who actually live at the addresses in question, with those people saying that the voters who filled out the ballots did not live there.
"Either [the voters] are lying on their registration, which is fraud, or they're living illegally in a federally-funded facility, defrauding the people of Hoboken," McCann said last week. "It's one or the other. If Zimmer is aware of this fraud and is accepting votes from [those who commit it], she is in essence defrauding the people of Hoboken in return for a handful of votes."
According to the ELEC report, eight of the nine individuals named in the complaint were also paid by Zimmer for campaign assistance in the runoff election. And some of the nine individuals were part of a prior complaint filed by Campos in August that made the same accusation.
According to the Board of Elections, two of the contested applicants already sent in ballots as of Tuesday, one of which was delivered by School Board member and Zimmer supporter Frank Raia, according to a printout from the Board of Elections.
When asked last week how the person was able to receive the ballot if they might not reside at the address provided to the county, Raia did not offer an explanation, saying only that he was committed to helping residents exercise their right to vote.
Principal Election Clerk Judy Mangine said that she had received McCann's complaint, and that Hudson County Superintendent of Elections Marie Borace was aware of the matter and will look into it.
On Wednesday, the day after McCann registered his complaints, 54 individuals who are on the 4th Ward voter registration list were challenged by Davis, who claimed to have found discrepancies in their registrations. They were primarily discrepancies of address, though in a few cases, the campaign believes the voters have a criminal record, which could disqualify them.
It is not actually known whom those voters were favoring or supporting.
Davis also presented a letter from a senior citizen currently residing at Fox Hill Gardens, located at 311 13th St. in the 5th Ward. The man in question had moved to that housing from a 4th Ward residence over a year ago.
Davis said that the man recently sent a letter to the Board of Elections saying that a Campos supporter who knew the man asked him to sign a registration form at his old 4th Ward address. In the letter, he says, "I would like to void the registration that I signed that was turned in...I will continue to vote at my correct address."
Davis gave the Reporter a copy of the letter, addressed to the Board of Elections and dated October.
In response to McCann's comments about the absentee voters' addresses last week, Zimmer released a statement through Davis, accusing McCann of "voter suppression." McCann, who is a convicted felon related to bank fraud, said months ago in a Reporter article that he was backing Campos in order to get "revenge" on the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO).
Zimmer's statement read, "The efforts by Mr. Campos and Mr. McCann to publicize the challenge process are a flagrant attempt to suppress votes by intimidating individuals who are, in fact, legal voters. This is just one more deplorable tactic we have seen in recent weeks by the Campos team, and I call on his entire camp to cease their slanderous, intimidating tactics and run a clean election."
Campos responded, "What's so deplorable about ensuring that this is a fair an honest election? Every American has the right to vote, that's what democracy is all about."
He added, "When the Superior Court of New Jersey set aside the controversial results of the 4th Ward's council election, my opponent resigned and agreed to a special election rather than submit to a full public hearing."
Regarding people not being on the lease, Zimmer's press release said, "Just because an individual is not included as a legal resident on a Housing Authority lease, does not mean that individual cannot vote in this election. So long as the voter does, in fact, reside in the 4th Ward, they have the right to vote."
The press release said that people who have the right to vote include "people who may live in apartments despite not being authorized residents, and even homeless people who may have been evicted from the HHA."
A representative from the Board of Elections Office who asked to remain anonymous would not comment on the veracity of Zimmer's statement, but noted that homeless individuals, as long as they can receive mail from an address they list with the county, are eligible to vote in the election.
Michael Mullins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.