Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Hoboken Voter Fraud Dilemma

February went out, well, like a happy lion cub with warm breezes and sunshine but the recent kerfuffle over voter fraud in Hoboken made quite a splash in the City Council last month.

The torrent of finger pointing unleashed itself with some odd misfires from Mayor Ravi Bhalla who made less than substantiated accusations pointing to the City Council before backtracking soon after in official releases to the City.

One Hoboken resident at the February 21st meeting pointedly stated they would be revisiting the issue of voter fraud at council meetings as long as it takes. At the previous meeting, the same resident noted there may be people involved in voter fraud "in the audience." There's been visible tensions on and off camera.

At the February 7th council meeting, voter fraud became a topic with consideration of a referendum where voters will decide on runoff elections this November. Council members Peter Cunningham, Jen Giattino, Tiffanie Fisher and Ruben Ramos all recounted their perspectives on the existent voter fraud problem in Hoboken. Those perspectives reinforced the issue from each of their vantage points.

Then one council member who is aligned with Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced his solitary perspective denying the issue and mocking the lack of any convictions for voter fraud in the Mile Square City.

Councilman Michael Russo said, "I don't think anyone really bought a vote... Anybody who tells you different is lying to you. When they say, someone bought Vote by Mails, no they didn't.... That's like Trump's big initiative of finding three million voters out there that were fraudulent. It's pie in the sky. It's nonsense. Are there one or two people who may do something like that? Yeah, but I don't think it's the candidate."

Russo continued to say those individuals should be held accountable but we should look at the "true evidence." He blamed "political operatives for feeding that narrative," and said there's never been a conviction in Hoboken for voter fraud. "Is it happening, I don't know."

Councilman Michael Russo, Hoboken voter fraud, what voter fraud?

Councilman Peter Cunningham responded to Councilman Russo, "We can do a better job at addressing the (voter) fraud situation... I've been subject to it, so I can say that knowingly firsthand.... We haven't had good investigations going on... by those responsible for investigating these matters." He said voter fraud is real and it's not just a local issue and neither Democrat nor Republican.

Councilwoman Jen Giattino said "I am 100% in belief that voter fraud exists" and remarked in the Hoboken 2009 mayoral election there were over 100 Vote by Mail ballots all filled out in purple ink, presumably by the same individual. She added, no one took notice of it and "Voter fraud definitely happens," and expressed her pleasure ironing out the language with Councilwoman Emily Jabbour on the recently passed runoff referendum ordinance.

"Election fraud does exist in Hoboken," remarked Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher. She added, "I've been vocal about this," in recent years and mentioned she worked in her position as Hoboken Democratic Chair to make changes at the local polls highlighting she withstood "strong resistance," in doing so.

City Council President Ruben Ramos highlighted his personal battles saying he had been involved in a successful fight in the courts back in 1999 against voter fraud where absentee ballots had been stolen out of residents' mailboxes.



Talking Ed Note: MSV broke the story of systematic voter fraud in the 2010 fourth ward special election. That coverage would see other media local and statewide follow, spotlighting the voter fraud issue in the Mile Square City. That investigation eventually found its way to the NJ Attorney General's Office.

In November 2013, MSV exclusively reported the Department of Justice was in Hoboken on Election Day investigating the issue of voter fraud.

In 2014, this editor spent a day and a half testifying to various details of voter fraud when a rent control ballot measure was challenged and several hundred Vote by Mail ballots were denied tabulation. Then councilman Ravi Bhalla followed testifying at the same trial eventually thrown out of court.

In the 2017 mayoral election, MSV highlighted extensive investigations took place prior to the election by the FBI. Those broad based efforts over months created an awareness citywide. It also created fear among certain targeted voter populations during elections in the Mile Square City making systematic voter fraud more difficult.

MSV recounted details of thousands of dollars splashed around for votes in Hoboken at the close of the last election through its MSV Premium service to members by email. While the efforts on the surface did not appear to sway the outcome, the indirect impact is less certain.

Corruption has always been a major focus for the existence of this website and Hoboken voter fraud a central tenet in those efforts running more than eight years.

Related: More recently, last month Mayor Ravi Bhalla stepped in it with a politicized attempt on the subject of voter fraud. He later had to issue another statement backtracking from the accusations instead pointing to the 2010 4th ward special election.

Mayor Bhalla raises specter of Hoboken voter fraud in bizarre attack on City Council



Epilogue: The issue of voter fraud in Hoboken and nationally isn't over.  There's been a change in the national conversation on the topic and with it serious efforts at exposing the underlying issue of voter fraud.

In the coming weeks, expect to hear more about both.