Concern over mail-in balloting is rising as the presidential election approaches. Last month, we highlighted California Governor Gavin Newsom’s brazen mail-in ballot scam: an executive order mandating mail-in ballots “to preserve public health in the face of the threat of Covid-19.” Judicial Watch challenged the executive order in federal court, prompting the state legislature to pass a law ensuring that mail-in balloting would take place.
Problems with mail-in, or absentee, balloting are not new. In 2005, the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission noted that “absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud…. Absentee balloting is vulnerable to abuse in several ways: blank ballots mailed to the wrong address or to a large residential building might get intercepted. Citizens who vote at home, at nursing homes, at the workplace, or in church are more susceptible to pressure, overt and subtle, or to intimidation. Vote buying schemes are far more difficult to detect when citizens vote by mail.”
Now comes news from New Jersey that has election observers worried. In a well-documented case of ballot fraud, the state attorney general charged four men with casting fraudulent mail-in votes, tampering with public records, and falsifying documents. It’s a template for crooked electioneering and perhaps a sign of things to come.
The charges surround city council elections in Paterson—Democratic Party turf and New Jersey’s third-largest city, with a $287 million municipal budget. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, like his counterpart in California, issued an executive order authorizing a vote entirely by mail-in ballots. Mark Hemingway of Real Clear Politics reports that problems quickly surfaced after election day. Bundles of ballots appeared in neighborhood mailboxes, raising the suspicions of U.S. Postal Service inspectors. Over 2,300 ballots were disqualified when the signatures appeared to not match voting records. Piles of mail-in ballots were left on the lobby floors of apartment buildings. Reporters tracked down citizens who were listed as having voted but insisted they never even received a ballot. Nearly 20% of the 16,000 ballots were disqualified.
Investigators for the attorney general quickly traced the bogus ballots to two local politicians and their hired hands. City Councilman Michael Jackson and councilman-elect Alex Mendez were charged with election fraud for illegally collecting ballots and tampering with the certification paperwork. Shelim Kalique and Abu Razyen were charged with fraud for improperly collecting ballots. The scheme appears to have been simple: the men collected blank ballots, forged the paperwork and signatures, and submitted fake votes. Read more on the charges here.
The fairy tale among Democrats and the Left is that conservative concerns about election fraud are nothing but attempts to deny voters access to the ballot box. But election fraud should be a bipartisan concern. As Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told Congress last month, “if you’re a Leftist Democrat trying to take on an incumbent in a corrupt jurisdiction, voter fraud can keep you from gaining traction.”
Paterson underscores Tom’s argument. It’s a historically corrupt city dominated by Democratic Party politics. The defendants in the ballot fraud case are not criminal masterminds—a closer approximation would be Curly, Moe and Larry—but in a way that’s the point. Ballot fraud is easy.
RCP’s Hemingway reminds us that while Paterson’s municipal balloting has little in common with a national election, the 2016 presidential race was decided “by fewer than 80,000 votes in a handful of swing states.” Paterson demonstrates that the national rush to mail-in balloting has left plenty of room for fraud and error. And that’s a signal of trouble for November.