The Hudson County Board of Elections is investigating potential voter fraud pertaining to the West New York Board of Education race, an official told Hudson County View.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“We are looking into voter fraud and anything with a hint of criminal intent will be reported to the prosecutor’s office and the state Attorney General’s Office,” Hudson County Board of Elections Clerk Michael Harper said over the phone Saturday.
He added that no one has been charged yet as a result of the investigation into about 100 to 200 vote-by-mail ballots.
Spokesmen for the prosecutor’s office and the state Attorney General’s Office declined to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
Sources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak on the matter, said that the ballots under review came from 5001 and 5101 Park Ave. – which are section 8 housing buildings.
Alex Navas, who is running on the anti-administration Save our Schools ticket, has previously accused the establishment-backed Children First slate of playing dirty.
“They have illegally collected hundreds of vote by mail ballots by deceiving, intimidating, threatening, the residents and seniors and furthermore stealing their identity and committing the crime of casting their vote,” Navas said in a statement.
“There is people in their campaign that have been specifically doing vote by mail targeting our most vulnerable resident; our seniors. For example: There is a person who has been flown from Florida twice to solicit absentee ballot applications and the actual ballot itself. Also, there is a teacher and town employees involved in this criminal activity.”
Jonathan Castaneda, Mayor Felix Roque’s chief of staff and the co-campaign manager for Children First, said Navas had no proof to substantiate his claims and also stated that the allegations were a “Hail Mary” attempt at the 11th hour.
“We’re running a clean campaign, we’re focused on getting on message out. These unsubstantiated claims come from a team that has been running a negative, dirty campaign, we won’t take these allegations seriously and neither should the public,” Castaneda said over the phone.
“The Children First team is running on our successes, while the SOS team doesn’t have a platform … this is nothing more than a Hail Mary. We’re looking forward to winning on Election Day.”
Castaneda was elected to the West New York BOE in November 2015, where he ran under the Children First banner.
Following a question from Hudson County View, during a short press conference in the parking lot of Parkview Towers today, Lorena Portillo, Navas’ significant other, mocked Castaneda’s response.
“Telling the truth is not a dirty campaign. A dirty campaign is sending a flyer saying we’re Republicans when he’s [Navas] been, for eight, 20, 15 years registered as a Democrat. That’s dirty campaigning,” she said.
Portillo added that the suggestion that security guards should replace police officers in the schools came from someone close to the Children First team and concluded by stating she did not have to provide any proof about voter fraud to them – she’ll save that for the county prosecutor.
Navas also alleged that many absentee ballots were not filled out properly since the “assistor” line was routinely not filled in and signed.
However, Harper said that in it of himself would likely be a “non-issue,” but that responsibility ultimately lies with the county clerk.
Back in April, Hudson County View exclusively reported that the West New York BOE is embroiled with litigation against Portillo after a previous board candidate submitted a formal complaint that she committed voter fraud.