New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin has received two letters from three different Hoboken officials regarding vote-by-mail fraud allegations, which are being disputed, ahead of the non-partisan December 5th 1st Ward runoff election.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Over the weekend multiple residents in Hoboken’s First Ward came forward to me with unsolicited information detailing a pay-for-votes scheme in that ward,” Councilman-at-Large Joe Quintero said in a statement, indicating he has forwarded a two-page letter written by residents of 400 1st St. to Platkin.
The letter, which is redacted to keep the unknown number of residents anonymous, claims that they have seen VBMs manipulated in prior elections and again in the November 7th non-partisan race, which is ongoing ahead of the runoff.
” … As a result we have raised awareness of this to our local Councilman-at-large, Joe Quintero, and with his help are notifying you via this letter. Specifically, we believe that Ana Cintron, a resident of our building (400 1st Street, Hoboken), coordinated an operation targeting seniors, hispanics, and our vulnerable population during the November 7 election,” they wrote.
“In this operation she offered $50 to targeted parties for their votes, seeking to benefit the candidacy of Paul Presinzano. Additionally, we believe she has sought to manipulate individuals into voting for the same candidate. Finally, we believe she is currently engaged in the same activity, for the purposes of benefitting the Presinzano campaign in advance of the December 5 runoff election.”
They assert that Cintron is monitoring the mailroom for voters, following them to their apartments, and collecting either a blank ballot or a forcing them to vote for a specific candidate, later paying them $50.
Cintron was identified as a campaign worker for Frank Raia during the 2013 municipal election where he unsuccessfully ran for council-at-large, eventually getting convicted of participating in VBM fraud by a federal grand jury, though Cintron was never charged.
She said today that the allegations made in the letter forwarded to Quintero are completely false.
“I vehemently deny paying anyone to vote and am looking into filing a defamation suit against those who have made these false allegations. I have always helped any of my neighbors who ask about filing applications for vote by mail ballots and follow all the applicable laws,” Cintron told HCV.
“I have gotten to know Paul Presinzano over the past few years and see all the good he does for seniors and I am happy to support him and encourage my neighbors to do so as well.”
In their own letter to Platkin today, Fisher and Ramos essentially called their colleague’s letter a campaign stunt to help Rafi Cordova, who has been endorsed by Quintero and Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
“This instance today appears as a calculated attempt by those supporting Rafi Cordova’s campaign to smear Paul’s candidacy, aiming for a damaging headline to be timed on the day vote-by-mail ballots hit mailboxes, two weeks before the election,” they wrote.
“The stakes in this election center around Mayor Bhalla’s risk of losing a pivotal fifth and deciding vote on the Hoboken City Council if Paul wins. A vote that is essential for his political plans for higher office. Mayor Bhalla has not only endorsed Rafi, but he has also made a $2,500 campaign contribution to him as well.”
They also note that the infamous 2017 “terror flyer” was “strategically timed” right before Election Day in a mayoral race that Bhalla won, as well as claiming it remains under investigation by the AG’s office and other agencies.
Ramos formally endorsed Presinzano last week, and while Fisher has not done so yet, but she said today that her endorsement is forthcoming.
In response, Quintero told HCV over the phone reiterated that neither Presinzano or his campaign are accused of any wrongdoing, also noting that the purpose of the letter is to simply have a level playing field in a pivotal race.
“The residents who are coming forward, and I spoke to them personally, are stating that they are aware of this activity going on and they want it to stop but they are afraid of reprisals from Ms. Cintron, which Is why I came in to facilitate the reporting to the authorities,” he said.
“If this illegal activity is occurring, then it could have a direct impact on this election. If it’s not occurring, no big deal, proceed as you would have. Legitimate vote-by-mail operations have a place in elections, illegal vote-by-mail schemes do not.”
On Tuesday morning, Mayor Ravi Bhalla came out in defense of his former running mate.
“Councilman Joe Quintero, who has demonstrated his integrity and commitment to Hoboken in his distinguished service on the council, has rightly brought the serious concerns of 1st Ward residents who have come forward about a voting buying scheme in the 1st Ward to the attention of the Attorney General, other law enforcement, and the public,” he said.
“Given the history of vote buying in Hoboken, these charges need to be thoroughly investigated. We have come too far to go back to the bad old days of cash for votes and the intimidation of our most vulnerable residents.”
In the district where the building in question is located, Presinzano received 39 VBMs, Cordova had 20, and Pellegrini secured six.
The AG’s office declined to comment, noting that they dod not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from Mayor Ravi Bhalla.