Two Bushwick centers affiliated with Assemblyman Vito Lopez — one of which who’s already under investigation — played host to serious election fraud that helped secure a Lopez victory last month, poll workers charged this week.
A Primary Day poll worker at the Hope Gardens MultiService Center asserted that other workers hired by Lopez ignored homecare aides employed by the Lopez-affiliated Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Homecare Council who escorted seniors into the voting booth and marked their ballots for Lopez.
“The home attendants went into the booth with every one of them,” said the source. “Sometimes there were two attendants. They even pointed to the [Lopez] box to fill in. One time, a senior voted for Lopez’s opponent and they brought the ballot back and said, ‘He made a mistake.’ ”
State election law allows a resident to be assisted in marking a ballot by a person selected by the resident. But the law prohibits a voter’s assistant from “seeking to persuade or induce the voter to vote any particular ticket or for any particular candidate.”
The source also charged that a translator, hired by Lopez as a poll worker, was telling seniors how to vote — and who to vote for.
“I can understand Spanish, she was telling them how to vote,” said the source.
Voting improprieties were not limited to Hope Gardens.
On a polling site inside a Lopez-affiliated retirement home on Himrod Street, the building manager actively campaigned for Lopez inside the polling station and filled out affidavit ballots for senior residents who could not vote in person, several poll workers said.
One of the poll workers, Luis Ramos, called the cops, who told her to stop filling out ballots.
“In no way, manner, shape or form was she supposed to touch the registration rolls,” said Ramos. “But the inspector at the table allowed her. Instead of the voter standing behind the place where you mark your ballots, she was there.”
When Ramos came back from a lunch break, he found that the building manager was back at the polling site filling in ballots. Ramos and an agitated co-worker confronted her again outside, to little avail.
“She kept doing that the whole day, but she denied doing it,” said Ramos. “Vito had an opponent this time. And the woman works for Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council [another Lopez-affiliated charity]. There’s a conflict there. It stinks to high hell.”
The building manager at the Himrod site declined to comment about the incident. And calls to the 83rd Precinct and the NYPD were referred to the Board of Elections, which did not return calls for comment.
But Scott Short, a Ridgewood Bushwick executive, denied Ramos’s charge.
“At all times when the manager was present with a voter in the booth, she was there at the request of the voter, and a Board of Elections employee was also in the booth,” said Short. “The manager did not attempt to influence the voters’ choices.”
The connections between Ridgewood Bushwick and the Democratic Party are more than just a coincidence.
Many of Democratic poll workers at the Hope Gardens and Himrod Street poll sites work for Ridgewood Bushwick, which is currently the subject of three investigations.
One of the duties of a state committeeman is to hire poll workers on election days, and Lopez often taps the nonprofit’s employees for lucrative poll worker jobs that pay between $200 and $300 for the day.
“Anybody who works [at Ridgewood Bushwick] is given this job,” said Esteban Duran, who lost in a landslide to Lopez for a state committee position. “He appoints people who work for Ridgewood Bushwick. He doesn’t even give other people a chance [at the job].”
Many Bushwick polling sites are located within senior centers or senior housing facilities, managed by Ridgewood Bushwick, giving its seniors easy access to the voting booth — and “assistance” from interested parties, said Marty Needelman, an attorney with Brooklyn Legal Services.
“Vito got almost 100 percent of the votes in buildings that Ridgewood Bushwick managed,” said Needelman. “The property manager controls that site with the poll workers.”
It wasn’t 100 percent, but it was a Soviet-style landslide for Lopez in those buildings. The Brooklyn Party boss won the Hope Gardens polling site, 139 to 16, or roughly 90 percent, and the Himrod Street site 64 to 8 or 89 percent, en route to an easy 70 percent to 29 percent victory over Duran for the state committee position.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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