Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Protest targets voter fraud 

More than 50 Bloomingburg and Mamakating residents stood on the steps of the Sullivan County Courthouse Tuesday and demanded justice.

The group claimed that elected Sullivan County officials have turned a blind eye to what they say is rampant voter fraud. They specifically targeted county District Attorney James Farrell for not investigating the issue. Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins - who's been arrested four times during his seven years in office - joined them, and blasted Farrell for another reason, saying "we need a DA who cares for all of the people."

The protest follows the county Board of Election ruling that the registrations of 184 Village of Bloomingburg voters were invalid. More than 160 of them were Hasidic Jews, who support developer Shalom Lamm, who is building a 396-home development for the Hasidic community.

In response, members of that community filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Board of Elections, charging it with religious discrimination. The county then said anyone who was registered would be allowed to vote in the recent Bloomingburg election.

Several village and town officials were at the protest, including Mamakating Town Council members Brenda Giraldi and Matt Taylor. They said they want to make sure town and village voters are not "disenfranchised" by voter fraud.

Giraldi quoted state Supreme Court Judge Stephen Schick's April 2014 comments about developer Lamm. Schick said the developer attempted "to stuff the ballot box" during the Bloomingburg mayoral election, which was won by Frank Gerardi, who opposed Lamm's development.

Call-and-response chants such as "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now" and others like "Do your job" were aimed directly at the DA's office.

One protester - David Demetres - even went into Farrell's office looking to see if he would address the crowd and acknowledge the issue. When he returned to the protest, Demetres said he got the answer he was expecting: Farrell was busy in a conference.

"I don't think he's interested in what we have to say," Demetres said. "He tries to keep his distance between him and his constituents."

Farrell did not return a request for comment.

Other protesters were critical of the county legislature since none was at the protest - including Town of Mamakating representative Jonathan Rouis, who did not immediately return a call for comment.

Bloomingburg Trustee Jim Johnson said he went to the protest to support his constituents. He said if someone isn't from Bloomingburg, then they shouldn't be voting in the village.

"That's not fair," Johnson said.

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