Tom Ballistreri and Manny Aponte, Republican candidates for the at large seats on the Atlantic County Board of Freeholders, said today the refusal of their opponent Democrat Freeholder Alisa Cooper, to cast a vote to introduce an ordinance to limit the number of messenger absentee ballots one person can deliver ?is an expression of her belief that we should continue to permit the electoral process to be infected with fraud, abuse and manipulation.?

?Hiding behind excuses about a potential legal challenge does not alter the fact that, by her abstention, Cooper placed herself on the public record in opposition to efforts to guarantee an honest and fair electoral process,? they said. ?She had an opportunity to tell the people of Atlantic County that she stood for a process in which they could put their confidence and she refused. Her failure to vote is inexcusable.?

Ballistreri and Aponte said while the Board?s action in introducing the ordinance to limit the number of absentee ballot messenger applications to five per person was an effort to cleanse the system, it was also a sign of the Board?s frustration with the continued failure of the Legislature to address the problem.

?Despite clear evidence that the absentee ballot process here has been abused for years to improperly influence or reverse election outcomes, the Legislature has repeatedly ignored the need to act,? they said.

?By abstaining, Cooper has clearly sided with those who want to perpetuate an unfair and dishonest system and manipulate it for partisan political advantage,? Ballistreri and Aponte said. ?She has contributed to the cynicism which people feel about government and has reinforced the perception that political gain trumps the public interest.?

Cooper, they said, has a history of abstaining on Board votes on issue of concern,

They cited a May 5 resolution to save taxpayers? money by permitting state or locally elected officials to opt out of retirement benefits, and a July 1 resolution to oppose pending state legislation to permit voting by mail.

?Cooper abstained on both of these resolutions without explanation,? Ballistreri and Aponte said. ?Did she not understand them; did she not favor them; did she fear that supporting them would cause political difficulties for her? The citizens and taxpayers of Atlantic County won?t know unless she tells them — and, thus far, she?s refused to do so.?

Ballistreri and Aponte reminded Cooper that, when she campaigned for the Board in 2005, she made the following pledge:

?No more fence-sitting, no more political answers. Just a simple yes or no will suffice.?

?It?s time for Cooper to heed her own words; to fulfill her own campaign promise,? they said. ?She?s correct — a simple yes or no will suffice. Why is she afraid of supplying it??

?Elected officials have an obligation and a duty to lead, to express their beliefs and vote their convictions on issues affecting the people they represent,? they said. ?Unless and until Cooper explains her repeated abstentions, she has failed to meet her obligation or fulfill her duty.?



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