A Bronx Supreme Court judge dismissed a civil lawsuit against incumbent Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, charging her with electioneering and fraud at the primary polls on Sept. 13.
The case was lodged by one of her Democratic opponents, Maximino Rivera. In the case, the 84th Assembly District representative was accused of electioneering at three polling sites on the day of the Democratic Primary, instances that were witnessed by three different poll watchers. Rivera’s suit also called for a new election.
Judge John Carter ruled that Rivera did not file his paperwork in a timely manner.
“It’s not surprising that the system doesn’t want to hear the specifics of the flaws and irregularities,” said Harry Bubbins, a poll watcher for Rivera’s campaign, who attended the hearing. “Instead he is relying on a technicality which is in fact an error.”
The suit also names the Board of Elections as plaintiffs. “The people that work at the Board of Elections weren’t there to provide assistance for the community,” Rivera said at a press conference held before the hearing. “They were there to provide influence for the incumbent.”
A Board of Elections representative declined to comment about the case.
Rivera, who said he could not afford his own lawyer, presented photographs to the court that he said show Arroyo too close to polling sites on election day. In one photo, Arroyo was talking with a police officer. Bubbins claimed the officer was telling Arroyo to leave the polling site in the Judge Gilbert Ramirez Apartments in the Bronx.
Another photo showed Arroyo’s campaign vehicle parked directly outside the apartment complex, and still another of a sample ballot with a marking next to Arroyo’s name, which Bubbins said was used to influence votes.
Arroyo trounced both her her opponents, winning almost 53 percent of the vote.Arroyo was not breaking any rules by being at a polling site, said Stanley Schlein, one of Arroyo’s lawyers. That is because she had a poll watcher’s certificate, which can be assigned to members of a campaign by the candidate or political party under New York State Election Law.
Schlein said Arroyo chose to be a poll watcher to ensure a legal election, and that Rivera and Serrano also had this option.
“If this matter had in fact been filed appropriately,” Schlein said, “we were fully prepared and able to refute any charges of impropriety because none occurred.”
Rivera also argued the font size on the ballots was too small, a grievance also aired by voters. The Board of Elections voted for an increase in the font size for November’s general election on Sept. 25.
Bubbins said Rivera’s lawsuit had an influence in the decision to increase font sizes, which occurred a day after the lawsuit was filed. He also argued the font size alone was reason enough for another election.
“The ballot size was illegal, so regardless of all the fraud and irregularities and criminal activity, the ballot size itself was grounds for a new primary,” Bubbins said.