One week after an 11th hour wave of mail-in ballots turned the tides on the South Jersey town of Pleasantville’s school board election, Atlantic County Democrats announced today that they are investigating the source of the ballots to find out whether they were “obtained honestly and legally” or if voters were “coached or coerced” in sending them.
According to a statement by Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Jim Schroeder, the party has submitted an OPRA request to the Atlantic County Clerk’s Office and the Atlantic County Board of Elections to find out “who was responsible for delivering the substantial number” of vote by mail (VBM) ballots in Atlantic City and Pleasantville in the November 4, 2014 general election.
“Submission of these ballots changed the outcome of the Pleasantville School Board election and is an unfortunate reminder of similar problems of absentee and messenger ballot abuse in these communities about ten years ago,” Schroeder said. “No one wants to revisit this period where one election after another raised serious questions about voter fraud and seriously underminded public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.”
Last week, the Press of Atlantic City reported that some 800 absentee and messenger ballots helped catapult the Republican ticket in the race to victory over the Democratic incumbents, despite the incumbents being ahead when polls closed on Tuesday night.
Democraitc board members Harriet Jackson and Darleen Bey-Blocker and candidate Doris Rowell found themselves in the lead going into Wednesday, but once Atlantic County’s Board of Elections finished counting mail-in ballots on Thursday, the incumbents were bumped out by Bernice “Sandie” Couch, Carla Thomas and Sharnell S. Morgan.
Another last-minute round of mail-in ballots also affected the school board election in Atlantic City, though they did not change the final outcome.
“I am concerned with both the number of vote by mail and messenger ballots and questionable voting patterns in the VBMs in both Atlantic City and Pleasantville,” Schroeder added. “While Democrats were generally getting eighty percent or better of the machine vote in both communities a very different voting pattern occurred with the VBMs that supported the Calloway slate of candidates in both Atlantic City and Pleasantville. Approximately eighty percent of these votes were cast for the Republican candidates for Congress, Sheriff and Freeholder. Was this due to coincidence or was there something more sinister involved?
In 2009, a host of council members in Atlantic City, led by Councilman Marty Small, were indicted for engaging over a nearly 10 year period in voter fraud acts that included absentee-messenger ballots and carefully coordinated campaigns to collect large numbers of them.