Defeated council candidate: Poll fraud was rampant in Hasidic W’burg • Brooklyn Paper

Defeated council candidate: Poll fraud was rampant in Hasidic W’burg

The hour and a half lines outside of PS 22 on the border of Prospect and Crown Heights were unfortunately not atypical this morning as Brooklynites hit the polls.
Community Newspaper Group / Eli Rosenberg

Defeated council challenger Stephen Pierson claims that his people saw loads of voter fraud in the 33rd District on primary day — and that it is not just sour grapes talking.

“We prevented a couple of hundred of fraudulent voters, but there was too much going on to stop them all,” said Pierson, fresh off a loss to the incumbent councilman serving the district that includes Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint, and parts of Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Boerum Hill.

Pierson said that the amount of fraud he suspects would not have tipped the scales and that he will not contest his loss to 33rd district incumbent councilman Steve Levin, but that the phony votes should not go unchallenged. Levin, who lives in Greenpoint, sailed to victory with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Most of the ballot box funny business took place in the predominantly Hasidic southern part of Williamsburg where the majority of votes are cast in the district, said Joel Vengrin, who acted as Pierson’s head poll watcher.

Vengrin said that he personally witnessed about a dozen fraudulent voting attempts, including voters whose signatures did not match those on the voting record and voters whose ages were obviously different from the one on the voting record. Some voters came in only to find that someone else had already voted under their name, according to Vengrin.

A Board of Elections poll worker echoed Vengrin’s claims to the web site Gothamist, which also reported 14-year-olds trying to vote at Williamsburg polling places and men collecting voter names at raffles on the sidewalk outside.

In most cases, Pierson’s poll watcher says he sent the interlopers packing.

“The polling officials were pretty diligent about checking signatures,” said Vengrin. “They made sure there was a fair process.”

This is not the first time a candidate has leveled allegations of fraud against members of Williamsburg’s Orthodox Jewish community. Last year, supporters of then-incumbent District Leader Lincoln Restler claimed that ballot stuffing was to blame for his loss to Chris Olechowski by a razor-thin margin. Restler spent more than a month in court challenging votes, but ultimately lost.

Steve Levin did not return calls for comment.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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