Newark election needs impartial monitoring: Editorial

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
on April 02, 2014

Newark mayoral candidate Ras Baraka is demanding that two members of the Essex County election board step down because they’ve publicly declared support for his opponent, Shavar Jeffries.

He’s right on that point. This political race is already dysfunctional enough, with accusations of misconduct being hurled against both sides, and the election board has to remain spotless in order to be credible.

Its members are responsible for overseeing the counting of ballots, determining voter eligibility, certifying election results and participating in recounts of voting machines. They have a duty to ensure the impartiality of the election, now just six weeks away.

Even the mere appearance of partisanship shakes the public trust — let alone a public declaration of support for a particular candidate.

And it’s not just the endorsements that are troubling here. It’s the history of this crew. The board members in question, Fran Adubato and Lee Fisher, are the wife and an ally of Democratic power broker Stephen Adubato Sr. — whose political machine has already engineered one fraudulent election.

In 2007, Adubato’s operatives got Teresa Ruiz elected to the state Senate, but not without multiple charges of ballot-box stuffing against her campaign workers, husband, and county employees, and a string of guilty pleas and forfeitures of public positions.

For that reason alone, it would be wise to have outside oversight of polling places in Newark, as both candidates have called for. This county has a reputation for dirty tricks. Let’s make sure we don’t see more of them.

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