A couple belonging to the Christian Jehovah’s Witnesses sect testified at the 2nd Ward election fraud trial on Thursday morning stating they signed mail-in ballots to “support the community” rather than to vote which is against their religion.
The couple — Grecia Amarante and Isidro Amarante – testified neither wished to vote. Both said they signed mail-in ballots that were brought to them by canvassers thinking it was to support the local community and improve the area.
“I didn’t know this was a vote,” said Grecia Amarante when former councilman Mohammad Aktaruzzaman’s attorney Susan Champion asked about her signature on a mail-in ballot.
“What did you think you were doing when you signed the document?” asked Champion.
“I thought I was supporting the community and that there would be improvements to the community,” answered Grecia Amarante. She said she never voted before and was not very familiar with the election process. Her mail-in listed Foyes Ali as an assistor. When asked if she knew Ali, she shook her head in the negative and said: “I don’t know.” She told deputy attorney general Alan Stephens she was given a mail-in voter application by canvassers who were aggressively targeting neighborhood residents.
“A lot of people were knocking on my door,” she said. “I’m not going to let anybody else come inside my home.” When asked if she recalled selecting a candidate, she said: “I don’t recall.”
Grecia Amarante said she only learned she had cast a ballot when she had a discussion with her son. “We are Jehovah’s Witness. We don’t vote,” she told the court.
Shahin Khalique’s attorney John Carbone asked her whether Jehovah’s Witnesses take oath. “No,” she replied. She was administered an oath prior to testifying. Her husband though refused to take an oath when he followed her to the witness stand.
“Did you vote at the municipal election in Paterson?” asked Champion.
“If I voted? I don’t know what that was about,” responded Isidro Amarante. He said he did not complete anything, but signed a paper that was brought to him by some of the canvassers.
“Did you know signing this was casting a vote?” asked Champion.
“This is the first time I heard you can vote by mail,” replied Isidro Amarante. The couple said they have never voted in an election in the past.
Carbone alleged Isidro Amarante visited the Passaic County administration building seeking replacement ballots for the couple.
“What did you think you were doing signing your name?” asked the deputy attorney general.
“I don’t vote,” he responded. Frustrated by questions from both Carbone and Stephens, he at the end said, “I guess I have [voted].”
The judge heard testimony from the couple and three other witnesses in a short session. Jeannette Rosa testified that she voted by mail. When asked if she knew her assistor Zakaria Ahmed, she responded in the negative. She said she was not told by anyone to vote for a specific candidate.
Cynthia Stephenson said a guy came and assisted her in filling out the mail-in. She said he came to her house with the ballot. She said her husband Lloyd Stephenson mailed the ballot after it was completed.
“Did that ballot come in the mail?” asked Champion to Lloyd Stephenson.
“No,” he replied. He said he also mailed his own ballot. He said he was not told to vote in a particular way. He said he knew his assistor, Ali, who lived on Paterson Avenue.
The trial resumes on Friday morning at 9 a.m.