Voting Rights Infringements and Polling Place Irregularities
Reported from June 4, 2019 Piscataway Primary, including:
· Video of Election Judge Telling Poll Workers Not to Offer Provisional Ballots;
· Photos of MCDO Candidates, wife of Piscataway Mayor, Handling Election Materials;
· Poll Worker Allowed to Work despite Expired Training Certification;
· Records Unavailable for Credentialed Challengers, and other Improper Activities
Progressive Dems Urge NJ Attorney General, Secretary of State to Intervene and Monitor Activities to Ensure Fair Elections in Piscataway and across Middlesex County
Piscataway, NJ – Members of the Central Jersey Progressive Democrats (CJPD) today issued a detailed report and letter request to the State’s Attorney General and Secretary of State, asking for their review and oversight to protect voting rights in Piscataway, NJ. The letter and other materials document a series of election irregularities that occurred in Piscataway polling places during recent elections. Along with video and photographic examples, the group provided first-hand accounts of activities that current practices, “afford partisan political entities – the Middlesex County Democratic Organization and the Piscataway Democratic Organization – unfair advantage at polling places in Piscataway, and cause voter confusion, improper voting, disenfranchisement, and ultimately compromised election integrity.”
“We are writing to bring to your attention our serious concerns about voting rights and the administration of fair and free elections at polling places in Piscataway, Middlesex County, and to seek the assistance of your offices to ensure that elections are conducted lawfully and free of bias. We are concerned that the Middlesex County election administration system, which is intended and required to be unbiased and independent, may not be able to operate fully in that manner.”
In a video included in the letter, a polling place judge is seen telling polling place workers not to provide provisional ballots, unless the voter asks for one. Despite CJPD’s attorney informing the judge that federal and state law requires provisional ballots to be provided whenever a voter is not able to cast a ballot by machine the poll judge refused to do so. On the video, he tells polls workers that provisional ballots only matter in large numbers. One of CJPD’s candidates won election in June by four votes, cast by provisional ballot.
“Every single vote must count,” said Herb Tarbous, a CJPD candidate and former MCDO Committee member from Piscataway. “It is incomprehensible and indefensible that a polling place judge would actively encourage poll workers to deny people the right to vote. As the state’s vote by mail program expands, many more voters may come to the polls without a complete understanding of their right to vote by provisional ballot if a question arises about their eligibility. The Board of Elections was aware of improprieties from prior incidents at this polling place, but the same judge remained.”
Reports of multiple candidates handling election material were included in the report. In two photographs, MCDO candidates Dennis Esipnosa and Paulette Crabiel Wahler, wife of Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler, can be seen handling voter signature books and conferring with poll workers. At another polling location, MCDO candidate James Worsham, Jr., was alleged to have touched the voting booth. The law clearly states that candidates are permitted to act as challengers on their own behalf, but challengers are not permitted to touch any election materials. At the same location, a poll worker whose training certification expired in 2013 was allowed to work.
The letter continues, “We do not bring these concerns forward lightly, nor for the first time. We have raised these, as well as previous, examples of polling place irregularities that occurred during the June 4, 2019 Primary Election with the Commissioners of the Middlesex County Board of Elections,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, no remedies have been provided this year, nor were any provided after similar incidents were raised after previous elections. To the contrary, information received through the Open Public Records Act has raised additional questions. We are asking for your assistance, as we can no longer simply hope that the Board and local entities will address these issues.”
Doreen Wilson-Bailey, a CJPD candidate who witnessed some of the incidents, said “Our right to vote is precious, and people have died fighting to secure it. At a time when the Democratic Party is working tirelessly to protect voting rights in places like Kentucky and Ohio, our local leaders are taking advantage of their positions to help keep themselves in power. We need oversight from people who care about our rights and will protect our elections.”
The letter details other incidents, including:
● A poll judge allowing a registered Republican to vote in the Democratic Party Primary;
● A poll judge and workers telling unaffiliated voters that they could not vote in the Primary because they “lose their independence;”
● Poll judges and workers not informing Vote By Mail voters of their rights;
● Selective credentialing of challengers based on affiliation; credentials being unavailable and untraceable for some challengers.
An all-volunteer organization, CJPD was formed in the wake of the November 2016 Presidential election, and engages voters to protect the values and interests of working people. In addition to organizing grassroots resistance to the Trump Administration, CJPD members have participated in county committee elections in Middlesex County and surrounding areas. In 2019, CJPD members won emergent relief to allow candidates to run for county committee regardless of gender identity and helped ensure that voters had adequate opportunity to opt-out of the County’s vote by mail program.
The report notes that during the June 4, 2019 Primary, the local Democratic Party circulated a divisive, Islamophobic flyer paid for by State Senator Bob Smith (D-17). The letter asks the Attorney General and Secretary of State to investigate that incident further.
The full letter, video and photographs are available at https://tinyurl.com/votingrights2019