A Superior Court Judge spent the Wednesday listening to testimony in an election fraud case where Dover Alderman Ronald Camacho is looking to overcome a 12-vote deficit in the June Democratic primary.
Witnesses sequestered outside the courtroom — many of them complaining that they lost a days pay waiting to testify — grew increasingly angry throughout the day, especially when they found out that that they’ll have to return on Thursday morning and maybe again on Monday.
That’s the price they pay for voting.
Jessica Castro, a 19-year-old first-time voter, told the New Jersey Globe around 8:45 AM that she had to be at work by 1:30 PM. She waited more than six hours before being finally being called to testify a little after 3 PM.
She may not vote again.
Alan Zakin, a Republican who is representing Camacho, has subpoenaed 41 witnesses in a last-minute bid to beat winner Carlos Valencia for the nomination in a city that is 69.4% hispanic.
Zakin said that 30 of those witnesses were actually served, and there were barely enough to make up the margin, even if Judge Stuart Minkowitz was able to invalidate twelve votes as fraudulent or illegal.
“We’ll see how this goes,” Minkowitz said. “If we don’t meet the threshold of twelve, we’re spinning our wheels here.”
Minkowitz repeatedly referred to the trial as a numbers game.
The number could actually be thirteen; if Minkowitz invalidates twelve — he already upheld one vote and threw another out today — it could force a do-over of the primary and possibly delay the Alderman election until after November.
Minkowitz made it clear that Zakin had to prove that the votes were illegal, beyond any simple technicalities or deficiencies. The ballots in question where votes cast my mail.
Fernando Castro, a 20-year resident of Dover who emigrated from Uruguay, told the Judge that he decided to cast a vote-by-mail ballot because of changes to his work schedule.
“I appreciated the person who was walking around the neighborhood,” Castro said, speaking through an interpreter. “I liked him and I decided to vote for him.”
Minkowitz said Castro did not have to reveal who he voted for unless he asked him directly.
“It’s not a secret here,” Castro said, making it clear he was a Valencia supporter.
Under questioning, Castro maintained that no one forced him to vote for Valencia, though he admitted to asking a longtime friend for help.
And he pushed back at Zakin when asked if he discussed the local campaign with his friend.
“Yes, like anyone else,” said Castro. :We discuss politics like we would discuss anything else.”
Valencia’s attorney, Scott Salmon, asked Castro if he would be upset if the Judge threw out his vote.
“Of course, yes,” he said. “If you decide to vote for someone that you like, and your vote is invalidated, it’s unfair.
Minkowitz didn’t put Castro in that position.
“I found no hint of incredibility of his testimony,” said the judge.
But Minkowitz did invalidate the vote of Raphael Hernandez, who admitted that his application for a vote-by-mail ballot was not in his handwriting.
Hernandez, a 20-year resident, says this was the first election he has voted in.
“I wanted to see how it felt,” he said.
Zakin asked him if he’d voted in the 2016 presidential election.
“No, they’re all corrupt,” Hernandez said. “It’s the same people all the time. Nothing changes.”
Zakin asked Maldo Sanchez why he decided to vote in the June primary.
“I am Democrat and I want to vote Democrat,” Sanchez said.
Marly Barrientos told Minkowitz that she voted regularly, but June was the first time she voted by mail.
“Nobody forced me to vote,” Barrientos said. “I wanted to vote for my on person.”
Zakin challenged the legitimacy of her signatures on the application and the ballot, saying they looked “similar, but a little different.”
“This is my signature. If you want, I can sign another piece of paper,” Barrientos told Zakin. “That is my handwriting.”
She told the judge she was “very nervous,:
“This is the first time something has happened to me,” Barrientos said.
Minkowitz reassured her,
“Ma’m, nothing has happened to you,” the judge said.
A short time later, Minkowitz instructed Barrientos to not speak about her testimony until the trial was over.
“How long will that take,” she said.