In the kind of case that seems relatively rare in the United States these days, 11 people in New Jersey have been arrested since Tuesday in a voter fraud investigation in connection with the Paterson City Council election in May, the state attorney general and criminal justice director announced on Wednesday. A 12th person was being sought by law-enforcement authorities on Wednesday night.
The investigation relates to the election of Councilman Rigo Rodriguez, who narrowly defeated Kenneth McDaniel. McDaniel was originally declared the winner, but the result was reversed
after 49 uncounted absentee ballots were uncovered, according to WCBS-TV in New York. McDaniel raised questions of voter fraud, saying that ballots had been faked or tampered with.
In October, Superior Court Judge Thomas Brogan ruled that there was no evidence of impropriety in the election, but McDaniel appealed to Attorney General Paula Dow to investigate. This week, Dow found grounds for fraud, which could result in McDaniel ousting Rodriguez after all.
The 11 people who were arrested are accused of falsifying absentee ballots
by writing in the names of voters without their knowledge, according to The Record newspaper. One woman is also accused of voting twice, under her married name and her maiden name. All 11 were issued complaint summonses and released, the attorney general said in a news release. They will be ordered to appear in court at a later date. The case is subject to presentation to a grand jury
for possible indictment.
Rodriguez was quoted by WCBS as saying: "I got nothing to do with it. I'm just a candidate. People voted for me."
When asked if he thought voter fraud had occurred, McDaniel told WCBS: "Oh, yes. No question. There were too many irregularities."
One of the defendants, Dalia Rodriguez, told WCBS: "It's not true. I didn't do nothing wrong."
She said that she supported Councilman Rodriguez but that she was not related to him.
If convicted, the suspects could face penalties of three to five years in prison and a fine of $15,000 or five to 10 years in prison and a fine of $150,000, depending on the charges.