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Investigation of Bogota poll workers casting residents’ votes could overturn last month’s election

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office is investigating allegations that poll workers in Bogota cast votes for some elderly and Spanish-speaking voters in last month’s close-shave mayoral election, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.

A judge in Hackensack yesterday also ordered that the voting machines and any and all other materials in the Nov. 4 Bogota election be preserved and presented to attorney John Schettino for incumbent Democratic Mayor Tito Jackson, who was defeated by Republican Chris Kelemen last month by 26 votes, and defeated Councilwoman Ingrid Brito.

The judge gave Schettino authority to subpoena witnesses in the case — and scheduled a hearing for Jan. 2.

Jackson and Brito are asking the judge to nullify the election results and either order a new vote or declare the offices vacant. Either way, they ask that the judge prevent Keleman and incoming Councilman Thomas Napolitano from taking office Jan. 1.

Investigators already have interviewed some voters and were seeking others, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.

The mayor told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that he began looking into possible voter fraud after poll worker Luis Rodriguez “bragged on video about throwing the election” to Suryakant Patel in Patel’s store, Megha Liquor & Deli.

Rodriguez is heard on the recording saying that he cast votes for the Republican candidates more than 22 times, the mayor said.

Also captured by surveillance cameras, he said, are poll workers accompanying voters into booths at the high school polling station.

A complaint filed by Schettino alleges that Rodriguez and Frank Misa “entered the voting machine and cast votes for Republican Mayoral candidate Christopher Keleman and Council Candidates Napolitano and [Daniele] Fede…for over fifteen [15] citizens in polling districts 2 and 3 located in the Bogota Jr./Sr. High School Gymnasium….”

The videos from the school and Patel’s store were both turned over to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, Jackson said.

Rodriguez’s bias was “further evidenced” when he ordered that the mayor be removed from the polling place the day of the election, court papers allege.

Rodriguez also told Board of Election candidate Consuelo M. Carptner, a district committeeperson, that she couldn’t be there, either, the papers say.

“These people did not only steal from the candidates — they stole from the voters. And that is disgraceful,” Jackson told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “I hope all of those involved corruption has no place in our society.”

Under an order issued yesterday by Superior Court Judge Robert Wilson:

“[T]he Bergen County Superintendent of Elections, the Bergen County Board of Elections, the Bergen County Clerk and the Municipal Court of the Borough of Bogota are hereby restrained and enjoined from unlocking, unsealing, opening, resetting, zeroing, stripping, disposing of, or otherwise interfering with the voting machines, voting authorities, voting records” and “are further ordered to preserve and secure all emergency ballots, voting authorities, canvas sheets, absentee ballots, envelopes, inner envelopes, envelope flaps, applications, rejected absentee ballots[,] provisional ballots, affirmations, envelopes, messenger records and other documents, records or memoranda regarding the conduct or results of the election[.]”

The judge also gave Schettino authority to “examine and copy all election materials, including, but not limited to, all books, appears, tallies, ballots, applications, envelopes, envelope flaps, signature registers, voters books, voter authorizations, messenger books, rejected absentee ballots, rejected provisional ballots and any other election materials, records, receipts or any other documents or election paraphernalia which may be requested [–]provided said examination and copying occurs in the presence of the appropriate governmental officials during normal business hours….”

Authorities also asked that anyone with further information about voter fraud or irregularities contact the prosecutor’s office, the county Board of Elections or the state Attorney General’s Office.

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