A number of sample ballots received by 1st Ward voters are missing candidates for Paterson’s city council special election.
It’s not clear how many defective sample ballots were mailed out to 1st Ward residents. The Passaic County Clerk’s Office’s election division prints the ballots and the Passaic County Superintendent of Election’s Office mails them to voters, officials said.
The sample ballots include the candidates for general assembly, board of chosen freeholders, and the city’s school board. The ballots also include mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ recreation tax question, but not the box that lists the candidates for the 1st Ward special election.
Veronica Ovalles, a 1st Ward candidate, said the sample ballot mailed to her has the 1st Ward candidates’ box missing. She collected eight sample ballots that were sent to her neighbors and family members – all eight are devoid of 1st Ward special election candidates.
“Voters are being deceived,” she said. She reckons there are more than just a dozen of sample ballots missing the candidates. Ovalles said the problem is probably more pronounced. She has received several complaints including one from a Belmont Avenue resident who said her ballot did not include the 1st Ward special candidates’ box.
“It’s wrong what happened. You don’t do that,” said Lucy Ross, who lives at the Belmont Senior Housing Complex. She said she was unaware who was running in special election based on the sample ballot.
Ross contacted Ovalles – the only candidate Ross came in contact with– to inform her the special election candidates were missing from the ballot. She uses the sample ballot to guide her during the actual voting process, said Ross.
“How do you expect a person to make a fair choice?” said Ross.
Ross said she believes voters in the 85-apartment complex all likely received defective sample ballots. She spoke to five neighbors who confirmed as much, said Ross.
The Passaic County Superintendent of Election’s Office said the ballots at the voting booth have the names of the candidates running for the 1st Ward election.
The Paterson Times is awaiting a response from the Passaic County superintendent of elections Sherine El-Abd.
“That’s not the 1st Ward,” said Hana Kataw, an election supervisor at the Passaic County Clerk’s Office’s election division, in disbelief. The defective sample ballot provided to Kataw bore a Redwood Avenue address in the 1st Ward. She later saw the address on the ballot which had the ward and district number.
It’s not clear how many voters have been impacted by the defective ballots.
“The machines do have it,” said Kataw. “The machines have those candidates.” Kataw said Monday morning her division will provide a response after looking into the matter.
Kataw explained the Passaic County Clerk’s Office prints the ballots, but it does not affix the addresses or other information that designates the destination of a given sample ballot.
It’s not clear what is being done to rectify the problem.
Both the Passaic County clerk and the city clerk said they did not receive any complaints from 1st Ward voters.
“I have not received any complaints from any voters in the City of Paterson concerning the November 2015 General Election Sample ballot,” said Passaic County clerk Kristin Corrado whose office is responsible for printing the ballots.
Sonia Gordon, city clerk, said she did not receive any voter complaints in regards to the defective sample ballots.
1st Ward candidates except Ovalles – who was personally impacted — said they were unaware of the defective sample ballots.
“That’s news to me,” said Manny Martinez.
“I wasn’t aware of that,” said Jackson. Someone hit me up on Facebook and said I’m not on the ballot, he said. He presumed the individual resided outside of the 1st Ward. The special election candidate names on the ballot are only visible to 1st Ward voters.
“There had to have been a mix up. What I’m thinking is that the ones that were to be sent to the non-first ward residents got mixed up with 1st Ward residents,” said Martinez.
Jackson said he’d like to see whether the same problem appears on the absentee ballots. It’s not clear whether the absentee ballots are impacted by the defective sample ballots.
“Let me call my lawyer now,” said Bernard Jones after being told of the incorrect sample ballots. He said his attorney is contacting both the county clerk and the superintendent of election.
“It could cause a problem for every candidate,” said Martinez of the defective sample ballots.