A Superior Court Judge today upheld the victory of Carlos Valencia in the Democratic primary for Dover Alderman after a four-day trial, ruling that claims of voter fraud by defeated incumbent Ronald Camacho were baseless.
“There has been no evidence that there was an effort to fraudulently construct or produce votes,” said Judge Stuart Minkowitz. “There was no indication that any voter was forced or compelled. “
Nineteen witnesses testified at the trial, but Camacho’s attorney, Alan Zakin, only produced eleven voters. So even if all eleven votes had been invalidated, Zakin would still have been one short of overturning the election.
Zakin tried to add more witnesses, which would have extended the trial past the date that ballots are printed and mailed.
“You have no basis of support of your basis of allegation, you want to question her to see if you can come up with a basis,” Minkowitz said.
“We don’t have any facts we can prove,” Zakin said. “We have a belief”
“A trial is not a fishing expedition,” the judge said.
Minkowitz only invalidated one vote, and praised the witnesses — many of whom required a translator — for their honesty..
“I did not find that any of these voters were withholding information or uttering deliberate falsehoods,” Minkowitz said. “All of them were candidate in their remarks. I could not get a single feeling from any of those voters that they wanted to defraud.”
Valencia’s attorney, Scott Salmon, said there were unintended consequences of the trial.
“Jessica Castro say that she was a first-time voter and she may not vote again after her experience with this election contest. James McCloughy, an experienced poll worker, say that he may not volunteer again after his experience with this election contest,” said Salmon, noing that Zakin had “ imposed a significant burden on a lot of voters, many of whom are minimum wage workers and are unable to continue to take off from work.”
Salmon criticized Zakin for not offering proof of his allegations of fraud, saying he demonstrated that just one vote should be discounted and that was because the voter did not recognize his signature
“That’s hardly evidence of any sort of fraud or conspiracy,” said Salmon.
Valencia has no Republican opponent in the general election.
“Today’s ruling was a victory for all proponents of voting rights,” said Morris County Democratic Chairman Chip Robinson. “I am proud to have supported a team of Dedicated Democrats in Dover First who will continue working to protect the rights of Dover voters.”
Zakin had filed 33 subpoenas in all, causing chaos on the first day of the trial.
“For some first-time voters who were forced to miss days of work, losing necessary wages and risking termination, this trial might cause them to think twice before voting again,” stated Dover Democratic Municipal Chairman Edward Correa, “But these voters should have no fear going forward. Their voices matter, and the Dover Democrats will continue fighting to ensure that every voter’s voice is heard.”