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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Justice Department observers will be on hand during Tuesday’s mayoral balloting because of fears that bad blood during the campaign will spill over onto Election Day.
The federal prosecutor for New Jersey said he ordered the oversight. Both sides in the race between Mayor Sharpe James and Councilman Cory Booker have claimed their campaign signs have been destroyed and offices vandalized. Booker alleges lists of voters and campaign workers were stolen.
Federal observers are unprecedented in Newark, which does not have a history of voter intimidation, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie said. He said an unspecified number of his office’s investigators and lawyers will watch over 100 polling places.
``Whoever is elected mayor on Tuesday, there cannot be the thought in the minds of the public that there was anything unfair about the election,″ Christie said.
On Friday, Booker called the observers ``fantastic,″ while a James spokeswoman said observers will protect both sides.
Also on hand will be the normal election detail of some 15 state troopers and 10 state deputy attorneys general, according to a spokesman for the state attorney general.
The use of observers is not as severe a step as an election monitor, who would be imposed by a federal judge and have supervisory authority.
James, 66, a former city councilman and educator, is seeking an unprecedented fifth four-year term. Booker, 33, a lawyer, defeated an incumbent to win a council seat in 1998.
Both are Democrats, although city elections are nonpartisan.
On the Net:
U.S. attorney’s office in Newark: http://www.njusao.org/break.html