Monday, October 25, 2010

Look out below! Here comes the avalanche, over 500 vote by mail ballots confirmed!

MILE SQUARE VIEW EXCLUSIVE FEATURE

The hopes for a clean and fair election for Hoboken's fourth ward is all but a dead man walking with the latest tally of vote by mail/absentee ballot applications now over 500. Almost half of the 500 ballots have already been returned to the Hudson County Board of Elections. Where a thousand votes or less may decide the victor's tally in the fourth ward special election, a heavy tilt on these paper ballots for one candidate means the election may land up being challenged in court.

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Expect a boatload of vote by mail ballots out of the 4-4 but don't
expect any admission of a problem from Occhipinti's campaign.
How would the likely breakdown of these 500 ballots break down?
Based on the repeated clean campaign requests from the Lenz for Council campaign, it's clear a paper ballot threat was anticipated from the Occhipinti for Council campaign.

Tim Occhipinti has steadily retreated in a series of backward comments from his earlier statements of a fair election in the summer even parroting his campaign's press release calling concerns about electoral fraud and pay for vote schemes "campaign silliness" in the Hudson Reporter debate. Meanwhile his communications spokesman David Cruz (l) earlier denied any "shadow campaign" exists.

Standing with Cruz in the above photo from the Jubilee Center debate is Matt Calicchio who was mentioned during the Hudson Reporter debate for some potentially problematic activity in vote by mail activities in the fourth ward. Many veterans of Hoboken elections are not surprised by any of this.

Although it's been highlighted several times before at MSV and also by Tim Carroll of PolitickerNJ after he left the Hudson Reporter in Hoboken, the purchase of votes in the fourth ward usually in the area of $35-50 per person is viewed as standard operating procedure for the old guard. Word on the streets from multiple independent sources reveal a shadow campaign has been in full force working the poorest part of town, the Hoboken Housing Authority in the 4-4. In an earlier story, MSV obtained documentation of vote by mail applicants. The data is public information available from the Hudson County Board of Elections. A majority of the listed addresses fell into this lower income area of the HHA.

Lenz for council campaign manager Sam Briggs replied in a statement acknowledging there are over 500 vote by mail (absentee) ballots in this election stating, "Unlike our opponents, we are not running a coordinated Vote by Mail campaign. There are supporters across the district who are voting by mail because they are out of town, working, or unable to get to the machines on Election Day, but we have no specific campaign to collect or push Vote by Mail ballots personally or through third parties."

The Occhipinti campaign was contacted for this story but no reply is expected. MSV along with the Hoboken Journal were no longer receiving press releases including one where the Occhipinti for Council campaign falsely charged a "bounty" being placed for information on Vote by Mail applications by unnamed websites. Also a letter by a Hoboken resident who has been a paid worker on numerous previous campaigns appeared in the Hudson Reporter, believed to have been orchestrated by the Occhipinti campaign. The letter complained about anonymous commenters appearing on unnamed websites. (None of the named commenters in the letter appear to be from Hoboken411, a website in the paid service of Councilwoman Beth Mason where political censorship is maintained with an iron fist.)


Hoboken resident and Planning Board commissioner Perry Belfiore who is devoted to opposing the mayor's administration and her current working council majority due to the upsetting of the Cammarano apple cart and their lack of Hoboken birther credentials has been tilling the soil of the HHA since the summer. MSV quoted him earlier sorting out "the universe" of outstanding vote by mail applications although he quickly contradicted himself denying any personal role in such an assessment. He later described Frank Raia who earlier announced his intentions for "a war" in the fourth ward special election as being out on his own like himself "doing his thing" describing him as a large island, in this case a continent. "He's Australia," he said of the long time candidate and officeholder.

Belfiore, a former HHA commissioner lives in the fifth ward but is well known for an earlier, infamous comment about Hoboken's current government being a "South Africa situation" where the organized minority rules over the unorganized majority as he described it.

Occhipinti who has repeatedly attacked Councilman Lenz for "street money" listed on his 2001 ELEC apparently sees no problem with massive amounts of street money finding its way into his campaign now. He's mentioned citizen group Common Cause as a defense of vote by mail even though it's a straw man in the areas of concern for paid voters and electoral fraud in this election. Occhipinti continues to say his campaign will operate within the letter of the law but how will he explain a huge disproportionate amount of his vote coming from vote by mail/absentee ballots in the poorest area of Hoboken is unclear.

Statewide on average four percent of election totals come way of vote by mail ballot previously called absentee. Although the Occhipinti campaign earlier sent a letter to the State Attorney General Paula Dow, all its accusations were completely opposite to any concern for vote by mail fraud where "campaign workers" vote by paper ballot in large numbers. Instead, they claimed "blog surrogates" for the Lenz campaign were responsible for an attempt to get the names of vote by mail applications and claimed minority voter suppression was also the objective.

It's unclear what the State Attorney General will do in this election but expectations are not strong there will be any reaction to the Occhipinti letter. A letter also followed to the State Attorney General's office from the the Lenz for Council campaign detailing numerous specific instances of election fraud it found needing attention heading into the November 2nd special election.

Talking Ed Note: MSV does not anticipate a comment from the Occhipinti for Council campaign. If one does come, this story will be updated. Tim Occhipinti at the Jubilee Center debate initially accepted a conversation to answer a couple of questions. After one question was posed, he walked away after attempting to have the question deferred to a staffer.

Repeated interview requests have been ignored although campaign manager Jamie Cryan gave assurances an interview would be forthcoming after the Jubilee Center debate.

Tim Occhipinti has declined going back to late summer to answer a question or submit an article for publication on the how to handle the surplus. He's not been seen at recent City Council meetings leading some to speculate a gag order has been placed on the candidate by his handlers.

Related: Tim Occhipinti earlier gave indications street money was back in play in an earlier MSV exclusive feature.

MSV detailed concerns for this election in the ever popular "Grist for the Mill."
Operation Bounty responded to false accusations by doubling its reward.