August 01, 2008

The Case of the Missing Emergency Ballots

by W. Timothy Howes, Esq.

Hoboken’s Frank “Pupie” Raia is a colorful local figure and a dedicated public servant.  When he ran for the Democratic nomination for Hudson County Freeholder this year, a funny thing happened:  The voting machine in his polling place was taken out of service after only one vote was cast.  With fingers pointing in every direction, Mr. Raia is still trying to find out what happened to the paper ballots that were used in place of the machine.

Frank Raia ran for the Democratic nomination for Hudson County Freeholder in the Fourth District this June, running as an independent Democrat against another independent Democrat and the candidate of the Hudson County Democrat Organization.  The Fourth District covers Hoboken and the Jersey City Heights.  Republicans do not win countywide office in Hudson County.  Indeed, they almost never run.  Therefore, winning the Democratic nomination is tantamount to winning the election. 

Mr. Raia is a resident of Hoboken and very well known and popular, especially in the voting district in which he lives.  On primary election day, he was the first person to vote in his voting district.  After he cast his vote, the poll workers shut down the machine, stating that the machine was broken.  A replacement machine was requested and in the interim, paper emergency ballots were used.

On election night, Mr. Raia lost.  He subsequently contested the election.  During the recount phase, the two machines that were used in Mr. Raia’s home district were checked and the votes in those machines re-counted.  However, the emergency ballots were nowhere to be found.  Neither the Board of Elections nor the Commissioner of Elections nor the representative of the County Clerk had any knowledge of their location.  But there is more:  The original machine from Mr. Raia’s home district - the one claimed to be broken - was indeed not broken. 

Those missing ballots may be the key to what happened to this election.  What happened to them and why they were used when there was nothing wrong with the machine?  The answers to those questions will likely tell us all we need to know about what was wrong with the conduct of the election.

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