Mail-in ballots are proving to be increasingly susceptible to voter fraud, as was shown in Paterson, New Jersey. In the special election for city council, 19 percent of ballots were discovered to be fraudulent, forcing the board of elections to disqualify more than 3,190 of the 16,747 votes.
The May 12 special local election came under suspicion when the Postal Inspection Service found hundreds of ballots in one mailbox. This discovery triggered an investigation by the attorney general’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, which unearthed much more intentional interference. Ballots were stolen (completed and empty) and filled out fraudulently, or were otherwise altered.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has charged four men with criminal conduct involving mail-in ballots: Councilman Michael Jackson, Councilman-Elect Alex Mendez, Councilman Shahin Khalique, and Abu Razyen.
Khalique and Mendez both won their races by incredibly close margins. Mendez ousted incumbent William McKoy with a mere 245-vote lead. Khalique’s race was decided by a difference of only eight votes, though a recount placed him exactly equal with his challenger.
Jackson, Mendez, and Khalique have all been charged with the following: fraud in casting mail-in vote in the third degree, unauthorized possession of ballots in the third degree, tampering with public records in the third degree, and falsifying or tampering with records in the fourth degree. Mendez also faces charges of second-degree election fraud and third-degree false registration or transfer. Rayzen is charged with fraud in casting mail-in vote and unauthorized possession of ballots, both in the third degree.
The frustration with fraud is leading some to call for the total invalidation of the election. A local NAACP leader, Rev. Kenneth Clayton, argues the city should have an entirely new election due to the rampant alleged fraud.
“These kinds of acts make people not want to vote anymore. They feel disenfranchised, disconnected that their votes don’t count, and that is not fair to people,” Clayton said. He is filing a formal complaint to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who ordered the election to be exclusively mail-in.
Benjie Wimberly, deputy speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, likewise criticized the governor for the policy. He too fears voter disenfranchisement, and believes the state should do more to allow in-person voting to prevent these kinds of issues.
The election moved from traditional voting to mail-in ballots to protect voters from increased risk of contracting the Wuhan coronavirus. New Jersey was one of the hardest-hit states for COVID-19, with the third most confirmed cases total (after New York and California) and the second most per capita (closely trailing New York). As such, the process of reopening the state has been slow.
The mess in New Jersey highlights why an entirely mail-in general election in November would drastically undermine the very concept of free elections. For months, conservatives, including Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump, have been noting the risks of mail-in ballots as being increasingly susceptible to voter fraud. While the left wrote off these fears as overstated, the fraud in Paterson shows how easily people can cheat this system.