PATERSON, N.J. (CBS 2) — There was a stunning development in a local election on Wednesday night.
The New Jersey attorney general has reversed a court ruling, declaring evidence of fraud in the Paterson City Council race from last May.
And the fallout has included nearly a dozen arrests.
Changing names — a sign of what may come on the Paterson City Council.
Planning Commissioner Ken McDaniel may take the seat of incumbent Councilman Rigo Rodriguez, now that the attorney general has said she has found evidence of vote tampering in last May’s election.
“I got nothing to do with it. I’m just a candidate. People voted for me,” Rodriguez said.
When asked if he believes there was fraud, McDaniel told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis, “Oh yes. No question. There were too many irregularities.”
It started last May when McDaniel was declared victorious, but then out of the blue 49 uncounted absentee votes appeared.
McDaniel was announced as the winner, and then 21 days later an automatic recount was conducted, turning the election in Rodriguez’s favor.
“And they counted them, and I became successful,” Rodriguez said.
Then a judge decided there was no tampering and no fraud, so the recount results stood.
“I don’t find certainly voter fraud occurred here,” the judge said.
But now in a startling reversal, AG Paula Dow believes she has found fraud, arresting 11 election volunteers in just the last two days, among them 51-year-old Dalila Rodriguez.
“It’s not true. I didn’t do nothing wrong,” Dalila Rodriguez said.
She said she’s not related to Councilman Rigo Rodriguez, and admitted she wanted him to win, but said she never tampered with a ballot.
“They can say whatever they say, it’s my words,” Dalila Rodriguez said.
McDaniel said if the AG can prove fraud, he would want his council seat.
“I don’t think that we would want any of our elected officials to benefit from corruption or fraud,” McDaniel said.
For now it’s business as usual in the Paterson City Council. The attorney general has not said what the next step will be, except that the investigation is ongoing, and more arrests are imminent.
Those suspected of vote tampering face between three and 10 years in prison, if convicted.