Fourth Ward Election Fraud Investigation Referred To Prosecutor's Office
Decided by the Hudson County Board of Elections on Wednesday afternoon.
The 190 vote-by-mail ballots that were challenged by the Mike Lenz campaign during the Nov. 2 special Fourth Ward election have been referred to the Hudson County Prosecutor's office for further investigation, the Board of Elections announced on Wednesday afternoon.
Initially the Lenz campaign expected that the board would make four criminal referrals. Instead, all the ballots have been turned over to Prosecutor Edward DeFazio's office.
"It's very encouraging," said Councilman Ravi Bhalla, who is also Lenz campaign legal counsel. He added the case will now be looked at with "a fresh pair of eyes."
The Lenz campaign challenged 190 votes, based on residency issues and claims that people were paid to vote by mail. They also challenged the ballots of the 78 campaign workers for eventual winner Tim Occhipinti who were paid $40 and voted by mail a few days after receiving the cash.
The ballots were first challenged on election night, when Bhalla and Stan Grossbard—Mayor Dawn Zimmer's husband—presented five affidavits alleging voter fraud to the Board of Elections.
The Board of Elections discarded 99 out of more than 500 vote-by-mail ballots, based on insufficient signature matches and other missing information.
Bhalla could not say how long the investigation by the Hudson County prosecutor would last, but he said he hoped the probe would be completed before the city-wide ward elections in May. Bhalla, although happy with Wednesday's result, added that he thought that the matter should be investigated by the corruption bureau of the criminal law enforcement branch of the New Jersey Attorney General's office.
Councilman Occhipinti unseated former Fourth Ward Councilman Lenz during November's special election. Although Occhipinti received 50 more votes on the ward's voting machines than did Lenz, he received 390 vote-by-mail ballots in comparison with Lenz's 34.