Lizaida Camis, a 55-year-old Hoboken resident, was arrested and charged for using U.S. mail to promote a voter bribery scheme last week, lending strength to concerns espoused by some in the city.
Hoboken officials, including Councilwoman and then-Democratic Municipal Chair Tiffanie Fisher and Mayor Ravi Bhalla, have previously expressed concerns over vote-buying in the city. In 2018, Bhalla vetoed a bill that would create December runoff elections in the city, citing concerns over the increased influence vote-buying would have in the lower-turnout elections.
“Voting by mail is a tool that is intended to aid voters, but instead has been rampantly abused by corrupt political campaigns,” Bhalla said in statement Tuesday. “Today’s official statement by the United States Attorney’s office proves what we’ve known for years – candidates and campaigns will do anything, including bribing voters, to illegally influence elections here in Hoboken. Quite simply, buying votes is an unlawful act that undermines our democracy, and must end once and for all.”
Between October and November 2013, Camis paid voters $50 each to apply for and cast mail-in ballots for Hoboken’s municipal election that year and delivered those applications to the county clerk, authorities said. In some cases, they said, she instructed voters to vote for the candidates that employed Camis.
Authorities said bank records show Hoboken voters receiving $50 checks from entities with ties to the campaigns that employed Camis.
Authorities did not name Camis’s employers, but a July 15, 2013, Election Law Enforcement Commission report filed by sitting Hoboken Council President Ruben Ramos lists a $250 payment to Camis for a “community health fair donation.”
An earlier Ramos ELEC report, dated July 28, 2009, shows a $25 payment to Camis’s daughter for election-day street work for former Hoboken Councilman Chris Campos, who was convicted in 2017 of helping orchestrate a cab-leasing scheme in the city.
Camis faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if found guilty.USAONJ 092018