Thirteen candidates seeking office in next week’s municipal elections have signed onto a letter asking the Attorney General’s Office to deploy on-the-ground election monitors at polling sites to prevent improprieties.
John Currie, chairman of the county election board, is singled out in the letter as someone who “cannot fulfill his duties in an impartial manner as chair and commissioner of the Board of Elections.”
Currie, who serves as chairman of the state and county Democratic Party, recently endorsed Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, as his selection for mayor, forcing the councilman’s opponents to cry foul.
“My concern is that the Democratic Party took a position endorsing a candidate in a non-partisan election. He’s going to have a major saying in what goes on,” said Aslon Goow, who led the campaign to demand election monitors.
Goow said he wants to make sure the process is functioning as it should. The election office consists of Democrat and Republican commissioners leaving the candidates unaffiliated with a major party without a set of eyes in the counting room.
“It’s a non-partisan election and there are eight candidates, who’s going to represent who?” asked Goow.
Jose “Joey” Torres, former mayor seeking a new term, commented on situation that unfolded four years ago when Kenneth McDaniel lost to Rigo Rodriguez after a box of ballots was discovered at the county election office.
“There’s already firsthand experience that transpired,” said Torres. “Because of past experience, it yields the perception, and in order to avoid the perception of impropriety, it would be best that state monitors oversees the election.”
“All the candidates agree in unison that it’s going to be best that the state come in to monitor,” said Torres.
Currie described the request as an attack on his integrity in a statement issued through his public relation’s director. “This is a personal attack on my integrity, and ultimately an affront to the honest and hard working Division of Elections employees,” read Currie’s statement. “The election process is full of important checks and balances, and this specific issue was recently litigated in Superior Court and found not to be a conflict for county board of elections members.”
David Gilmore, an activist running the mayor’s seat, questioned the chairman’s integrity. “We have to question not only his intentions but his integrity because he has unleveled the playing field,” said Gilmore. “That means, we need outside monitors to ensure the other processes are not violated as well.”
Gilmore mentioned the purported irregularities with the Frank Feenan and Richard Berdnik sheriff’s race in which Republicans found thousands of voters’ signatures that do not match. “I think we’re validated through the history,” said Gilmore.
Seven mayoral candidates signed the letter; Sayegh did not sign. Sayegh directed questions to his campaign spokesperson, who did not respond to a message seeking comments.
Only two out of eight candidates in the council at-large race did not sign the letter: Kenneth McDaniel and Maritza Davila.
“I’m showing support for fairness,” said Eddie Gonzalez, who signed the letter. Gonzalez said by having monitors on the ground it will avoid any confusion that may arise afterwards. “Let’s just get this right from the beginning,” said Gonzalez.
Leland Moore, spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, said the office has no comment at this time.