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Flatbush Council candidate accuses incumbent of illegal electioneering at polls

Too close for comfort: Multiple Flatbush voters and volunteers accused Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D–Flatbush) of campaigning inside and outside polling sites on election day — in direct violation of city election laws.
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A handful of workers and volunteers for candidate Brian Cunningham’s campaign to oust Councilman Mathieu Eugene have accused the incumbent of illegally electioneering at multiple polling sites on election day.

On the heels of a contentious debate where Eugene (D–Flatbush) refused to shake his challenger’s hand, the councilman has been spotted schmoozing with potential voters and poll workers inside several polling sites — in direct violation of laws against electioneering near the polls.

Candidates, and anyone else, are forbidden from campaigning within 100 feet of polling sites on election day so as not to pressure or intimidate voters, according to the Board of Elections. Candidates are also not allowed inside any polling site other than the one they are voting at — and Eugene is violating both, said Cunningham campaign staffer Jonathan Bock.

“He’s been spotted at two locations,” said Bock. “If you are a candidate, you’re not allowed to go inside polling places whatsoever, other than the one you vote at.”

And Eugene, who is supposed to cast his own ballot at PS 249 on Marlborough Road, did pay a visit to the school, but only to shake hands with people inside the gym — he never actually voted, said a paid canvasser and poll watcher for Cunningham — who is running on the Reform Party line with the Working Families Party endorsement after losing the Democratic primary.

“He shook a few hands in the lobby, said ‘hi’ to some people inside the main gym where ballots are cast, and in there he greeted a couple more people,” said Gideon Hess. “He did not vote, didn’t get a ballot or anything, just came in and talked to some people.”

Another voter was told by an apparent poll worker at PS 320 on McKeever Place that he had to vote straight down the Democratic ticket for his ballot to count, after workers couldn’t find his name and he had to vote by affidavit.

“He said, ‘well, it’s up to you but you have to vote straight down the line,” said Ian Allen, who is not involved with Cunningham’s campaign. “It was messed up, it upset me, he was very clearly trying to influence the vote.”

Eugene’s camp was also allegedly telling voters the same fake spiel at MS 2 on Parkside Avenue, according to Candice Fortin, who also works for Cunningham’s campaign.

Another voter lamented on social media that she was given a ballot that had already been filled out.

“I voted. However, when I went to vote they handed me a ballot that was FILLED OUT,” Paula Gilovich tweeted.

But Eugene’s campaign claims the pol only visited the polling sites to check out reports of Cunningham campaigning there first, and to remind workers that electioneering is not allowed — despite the fact that the incumbent showing up to do that would violate the same laws — according to Eugene’s campaign worker.

“The councilman is aware of the rules not going to sites, but he was alerted by poll workers that Brian was there,” the staffer said. “It’s sort of like a false accusation, he wasn’t really campaigning, he went because he was told Brian was there.”

But the staffer had no comment regarding the other allegations, such as poll workers telling voters to only vote Democratic or handing them ballots that were already filled in.

The Board of Elections did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:51 pm, November 7, 2017
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