To make sure your vote is counted, please go to the polls to cast your ballot.  Nancy

A Mail-Voting Redo in New Jersey

Paterson will get a new election, but the stakes are higher in the Nov. 3 presidential race.

By The Editorial Board  August 21, 2020
New Jersey’s judiciary is calling an electoral mulligan. The state’s third-biggest city, Paterson, held a municipal election by mail in May, but the results fell into doubt after a startling percentage of the ballots were tossed out. Four men, including a city councilman and a councilman-elect, were charged with vote fraud.

On Wednesday a state court found that the election in the city’s third ward “was rife with mail in vote procedural violations,” and therefore it “was not the fair, free and full expression of the intent of the voters.” A redo will be held Nov. 3. “Of all ballots cast in the Third Ward City Council election,” Judge Ernest Caposela wrote, “24.29% were rejected.” By comparison, he said that in 31 municipal elections held the same day across New Jersey, the overall ballot-rejection rate was “only 9.6%.” For democratic legitimacy, that’s an alarming “only.”

At a Paterson apartment building, the U.S. Postal Service didn’t place blank ballots into individual mailboxes, the judge wrote. Instead “a substantial number” were “left in bulk in the foyer.” Court filings cite people who said they didn’t vote, yet ballots were sent in under their names. About 200 ballots were found in a mailbox in Haledon, N.J., an adjacent town. Three voters, the local news said, strangely did not list their addresses as any local cemetery, despite their being dead.

On the fraud claims, Judge Caposela deferred to prosecutors. But New Jersey’s Attorney General has alleged that the indicted city councilmen obtained at least one unvoted ballot, which was then “delivered to the Board of Elections.”

Whenever Donald Trump brings up Paterson, Democrats say it’s proof that fraud in mail voting can be detected and policed. “I view that as a positive data point,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said last Sunday. “Some guys tried to screw around with the system. They got caught by law enforcement. They’ve been indicted. They’ll pay a price.”

That last bit might be true, thanks in part to New Jersey’s legal restrictions on ballot harvesting. But Mr. Murphy is wrong to say that bad actors merely “tried to screw around with the system.” Although they were caught, they succeeded. An election has been invalidated, and Paterson will hold another vote.

For a city council, this isn’t the end of the world. But at the top of the Nov. 3 ballot, the stakes are higher. There aren’t do-overs for presidential elections. The answer is for state and local officials to stop blaming the post office and start implementing an election process that voters can trust.




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