Board of Election panel refer Grimm ballot fraud to prosecutors
UPDATED | The city Board of Elections says the campaign of convicted felon and disgraced former Congressman Michael Grimm fraudulently tried to get a rival kicked off the ballot — and may have even committed a crime.
The board ruled unanimously this week against Grimm, who is running in the Republican primary against Rep. Dan Donovan for his old Bay Ridge-Staten Island seat, and gave Donovan the Reform Party ballot line that Grimm had tried to block with a bit of last-minute shenanigans last month. Not only did the Grimm team lose, but the Board of Elections referred the matter to federal and local prosecutors in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island.
Grimm resigned from Congress in 2015 after pleading guilty to tax evasion stemming from his ownership of a health food restaurant in the 2000s— and opponents say the latest transgression follows a pattern.
“All Grimm does is break laws,” Kings County Reform Party Chairman Bob Capano told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Politics is sleazy enough, we don’t need a criminal representing us in Congress. On election day, will parents really want to come home and tell their children, ‘Today I voted for an ex-convict’?”
To understand what Grimm’s team tried to do regarding the Reform Party ballot requires a brief, but worthy, digression about the Byzantine process by which candidates get on the ballot in New York State.
All candidates must collect signatures of registered party voters in order to secure a place on that party’s ballot. Both Donovan and Grimm are running on the Republican ballot in the June 26 primary. Donovan was also hoping to get the Reform Party line in the November general election — an insurance policy, if you will, should Grimm beat him for the Republican line.
To get the Reform Party ballot slot, Donovan submitted enough signatures of registered party members.
Now here is where it gets technical: Under current election law, a candidate need not file a cover sheet on those signatures if only one volume — less than 10 pages — is submitted.
But on April 12, minutes before the deadline for submitting valid signatures, Grimm’s aide Joe Shikhman filed additional signatures on behalf of the Donovan campaign, creating a second volume and thus triggering the requirement for a cover sheet.
Grimm’s campaign then challenged Donovan’s right to the Reform Party ballot line, citing Donovan’s failure to follow the rules. But on Tuesday, the commissioners of the Board of Elections disagreed, giving Donovan the Reform line — and sending the issue to U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, plus the district attorneys in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island.
“We are pleased with the Board’s decision and feel completely validated,” Donovan’s campaign spokesperson Jessica Proud told the Brooklyn Eagle.
“Michael Grimm’s actions were so egregiously illegal that the Board of Elections took the unprecedented step of referring it to prosecutors. One thing is clear: Michael Grimm is the same criminal who will lie and cheat just to get his way. We … look forward to him being held accountable for his crimes.”
Grimm declined to speak to the Eagle, but Shikhman told the Staten Island Advance that the candidate, who had served seven months in prison on the earlier tax evasion conviction, had not committed a crime this time.
“For a former prosecutor, Desperate Dan seems to be shockingly unaware of how the law works,” he said. “As his failing campaign throws out accusations of fraud, what’s notably missing is a single reference to a law that was broken or document that was fraudulent. And that’s because there isn’t one — these baseless accusations are as false as Dan’s desperate claims he secured funding for the President’s border wall or that he opposes sanctuary cities.”
Donovan’s spokesman said the charge is clear: filing a false instrument.
“Yes, laws were broken,” Proud said. “They filed a fraudulent instrument in an attempt to violate the civil rights of Reform Party members. it was also a conspiracy to prevent an election. The Board’s unanimous decision to refer the matter to prosecutors is unprecedented. Personally, in the 15 years I’ve been doing this I’ve never heard of someone pulling a move like this.”
Story was updated with additional context and information.
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