Dear friends and neighbors:
You may not be aware, but this is turning into a historic week in Hoboken as it relates to our elections.
- Yesterday’s news announcement that Hoboken’s Frank “Pupie” Raia and Dio Braxton were indicted in the US District Court in Newark (click to read) for paying people to vote in Hoboken during the 2013 municipal elections.
- Next Tuesday you'll get to vote “Yes” on Hoboken Public Question #1 to reinstate runoffs and majority rule into our local elections.
Combined, these are GIANT STEPS in getting us closer to having fair and democratic elections in Hoboken.
Lets start with the runoffs which I was planning to write about on its own today before yesterday's surprising news ….
City of Hoboken - Municipal Question #1 – “Shall Run-off Elections be held in the City of Hoboken as permitted by the “Uniform Non-Partisan Elections Law”?
I voted “Yes” four times to have this added to the ballot this year and I am voting a definitive “Yes” on this when I vote next Tuesday. The reasons are simple for me. Last year’s elections took its toll on our community and I know most people I have spoken with do not want to see what happened in 2017, with the excessive hostility and division, happen again. To me plurality/aka “winner take all” (vs. majority rule) allows candidates to appeal to just specific blocks of voters with little concern of alienating others which can have lasting, negative impacts. Like many, I want to see civility restored to our elections and I want the majority of our community to feel as though they had a hand in electing our leaders.
Didn’t we just vote to eliminate runoffs? Yes, of those who cast a vote on this issue in 2012, 58% voted to eliminate runoffs. More decisive was the 75% who voted to move municipal elections from May to November during the same election. These issues were combined into one discussion and were a sign of the times and the advocacy of our then mayor given the experienced she and our community had in 2007 and 2009 when there were multiple elections for 4th Ward Council and Mayor, with multiple candidates in each. Just voting to move the municipal elections from May to November reduced our election costs and voter fatigue significantly by eliminating 1/3 of our annual elections. I would argue that removing the runoffs has only contributed to increasing our voter fatigue.
For the naysayers who may think otherwise, this vote to me is not at all a referendum on our current mayor. Rather, this upcoming vote is a referendum on last year’s election and its divisive effect on our community. Just because we voted one way six years ago, doesn’t mean we cannot vote again and consider more recent events as we decide how to move forward.
In February I sent out an email on this topic with the subject “Runoffs – Do voters have the right to change their minds?”. I would encourage you to read it again or if you haven’t read it yet (click above or HERE). I think it is a good primer on the actual numbers in Hoboken’s elections and will demystify some of the rhetoric you may here about low voter turnout and the impact of our nefarious “paid for votes.” I feel strongly that runoffs will actually reduce the impact “paid for votes” and special interests have on our elections. Long story short:
- We don’t have low turnout municipal elections in Hoboken.
- Hoboken runoffs have historically produced more total voters than the initial elections.
- Any influenced vote (paid for or otherwise) would have much less of an impact on a runoff election – with a field of only two candidates with increased turnout per candidate.
Back to those indictments… An end to “paid for votes” in Hoboken? Let’s hope so.
I cannot stress enough that this is a really big deal for Hoboken. Here are a couple of links to the NJ.COM, and the HUDSON COUNTY VIEW articles written yesterday.
In Hoboken, every election is structured around the impact of the reputed “paid for vote” and how many will be delivered. We have all heard about it. Many of us have seen evidence of it. I remember when I first ran in 2015, I was told I had to think about how many might be in the 2nd Ward – all that would be working against me. People who have participated in it speak openly about it. It mainly involves an organized plan to pay $50-80 each to voters who are generally lower income. Sometimes it also involves threats – threats to be kicked out of their housing or to have their rent increases if they don't vote a certain way. It is awful.
Are people surprised that it is Frank Raia and Dio Braxton who are being indicted? Not at all. They have definitely both been names that have been talked about as being behind these type of efforts across many campaigns over the years – not just in 2013. I just think people are surprised that the powers that be just finally did something about it. Anecdotally, when I met with Frank for the first and only time in 2016 leading up to his potential reappointment to the NHSA, he told me about deals he made in my election year and asked me why I thought other elected officials seemed to be so interested in him, and I told him point blank “because they think you can influence the outcome of elections.” He just smiled. I did not vote for him to be reappointed.
I know that some of you reading this will be saddened by this news because of the positive contributions Frank has made within our community – the biggest being as the founder of HOPES. Frank has a long history in Hoboken which for those who aren’t familiar, you can google him to find out more. It is a shame that he has allowed these events to overshadow the more positive aspects of his legacy.
What I and most hope comes out of this is that vote buying and exploiting the more vulnerable and disenfranchised voters in our community will end once and for all. And that, as necessary, the US Attorney’s office will continue its efforts to help ensure this. Lets all keep our fingers crossed.
So with these, as I said before, this is truly an historic week for Hoboken. We are such an amazing community and a unique one at that – something like Sesame Street, Cheers and Parks and Recreation all wrapped into one. J We do so many things already that bring our community together. This week lets try to do even more.
As always, if you have any further questions or want to discuss this or anything else, please feel free to call me at 201/208-1674 or email me. And please forward this to anyone you think might benefit from hearing about these topics.