**This story has been updated to include a quote from candidate Cordova. Allegations of Vote-By-Mail fraud in Hoboken’s December 5th, 1st Ward Runoff election are dominating the political landscape in Hoboken. New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin has received two letters from three, elected Hoboken Council members detailing the allegations.
The dispute began when Councilman-At-Large Joe Quintero, a supporter of Mayor Ravi Bhalla and runoff candidate Rafi Cordova, forwarded a letter to the Attorney General, written by residents of the First Ward living at 400 First Street, saying a pay-for-votes scheme was happening.
The alleged scheme targeted resident Ana Cintron, a supporter of runoff candidate Paul Presinzano, as well as Presinzano himself. The residents’ letter stated Cintron “…coordinated an operation targeting seniors, hispanics, and our vulnerable population during the November 7 election. 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.”
Both Cintron and candidate Presinzano deny the allegation that a pay-for-vote scheme has been in play for the recent election and the upcoming runoff. Cintron and Presinzano are both considering the filing of defamation lawsuits.
Council members Tiffanie Fisher and Ruben Ramos have penned a letter to the Attorney General. In part their letter states, “We are writing in response to the letters sent to you today from Hoboken City Councilman Joe Quintero and residents of Hoboken’s 1st Ward falsely alleging that residents are being paid to vote in support of Paul Presinzano’s campaign for election to the Hoboken City Council. The names of those making the unsubstantiated accusations were not made public in CM Quintero’s press statement that he circulated widely this morning.”
The Fisher / Ramos letter continues, “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. The stakes in this election center around Mayor Bhalla’s risk of losing a pivotal 5th and deciding vote on the Hoboken City Council if Paul wins.” It would potentially hinder Mayor Bhalla’s anticipated, future run for a Congressional seat.
In a press statement issued last night, candidate Presinzano says, “Setting the record straight, these allegations are baseless and defamatory. I would never pay for votes or have anyone pay for votes on my behalf which put my family’s future and my own reputation on the line. We expected dirty politics from my competitor’s campaign during this election, but even I did not believe that Rafi would stoop this low just to win. I am not going to let Team Bhalla discredit me, my family, or my supporters with this nonsense.”
Presinzano continued, “Paying people for their vote is illegal, and if anyone is doing that in this election or any other, they should be prosecuted. But, that is not what this is about. This is Team Bhalla doing whatever it takes to win, including ruining the reputation of innocent victims along the way. This is a prime example of why I got into this campaign in the first place. We cannot let them get away with being a bully to the people of Hoboken.”
In a statement, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla said, “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. 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”
Candidate Cordova added, “I appreciate the concerned 1st Ward residents who have alerted the Attorney General, other law enforcement and the public at large about what they believe to be an illegal voting buying scheme. I believe this is a serious matter in need of investigation, given Hoboken’s history of these kind of illegal efforts. We must make sure they are stamped out once and for all.”