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Conservative Group Fights To Get Ballot Collection Off The Ground In Deep-Blue New Jersey

‘I’m an old timer. I like to vote on Election Day. But we’ve got to fight the war that we’re in,’ Spadea said.

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A conservative political action committee billed as Fix Jersey Now is looking to do what Republicans have long been loathe to do: Beat the left at its own ballot game.

The PAC, affiliated with New Jersey conservative icon Dominick “Mick” Spadea, aims to fund and implement a ballot-gathering initiative to bring back the GOP from the brink of oblivion in the Democrat-dominated Garden State. Third-party collection of ballots has been part of the Democrats’ blueprint to electoral success. Every so often they get caught breaking the law

“We need your support to get boots on the ground,” the organization urges on its website. “FIX JERSEY NOW has the plan to win elections by out-competing the Democrats in collecting ballots. Now we need your support to put our plan into action.” 

What is that plan? Long-term, the initiative looks to boost Republican ranks in a state where the number of registered GOP voters comes in third behind “unaffiliated.”

More immediately, the PAC proposes a targeted — and legal —  ballot collection program backed by “research, analysis, strategies and coordination for identifying voters.” The initiative, according to documents obtained by The Federalist, would use “proprietary analysis” to target “those who do not vote, then develop a targeted message that will engage and speak to those specific register[ed] but non-voting residents.” 

The plan includes an education component on ballot collection “aligned with local board[s] of elections and all applicable laws.” Organizers are working to recruit and train ballot collectors. They say they plan to investigate other voting options and the availability of drop boxes — one of the more effective weapons in the left’s GOTV arsenal. 

Spadea tells me the PAC is looking to raise $25,000 per county. The initiative is starting with five counties, including Camden and Sussex, but Spadea hopes to be able to eventually reach the entire state.

“We have two county GOP chairmen on board with this. We might be able to do it for less because of volunteers,” Spadea said. “Our main expense is the legal aspect. We don’t know what the Democrats are going to do. We think they’re probably going to attack us and take us to court.” 

To date, Fix Jersey Now has recruited dozens of donors and volunteers around the state, Spadea said. The idea is to prove ballot harvesting works for Republicans; it clearly has for Democrats.

New Jersey ballot collection laws are not as wide open as some other blue states. According to Ballotpedia, “In New Jersey, an authorized messenger may return mail-in ballots for a voter. The messenger may not be a candidate and can return no more than three voters’ ballots.”

The law states

The bearer, by signing the certification provided for in section 12 of P.L. 2009, c.79(C.19:63-12), certifies that he or she received a mail-in ballot directly from the voter, and no other person, and is authorized to deliver the ballot to the appropriate board of election or designee on behalf of the voter.

Party Politics? 

Spadea tells me funding is a big problem thus far. He said the PAC has provided the tactical plans to Jersey operatives, and allies at the Conservative Political Action Conference have been supportive. But Spadea claims the New Jersey GOP is resistant to change and won’t return his calls. State party officials are ignoring him, he said.

“New Jersey is the kind of state where the Republican Party is very comfortable being second,” said the businessman, who made his name in Republican circles as a “noted South Jersey GOP fundraiser in the late 1970s and 1980s, [and] a key New Jersey supporter of Ronald Reagan as early as 1976,” according to Observer.

He suspects the cold shoulder from the state GOP has something to do with his son Bill Spadea, a vehement Trump supporter who was labeled by the left and the accomplice media as a 2020 “election denier” and is reportedly preparing for a run for New Jersey governor. Reformed Trump basher Jack Ciattarelli is expected to run against Spadea in the 2025 race for governor. 

“The problem with me is that my son is controversial with the GOP establishment,” the elder Spadea said. “When they hear the name ‘Spadea’ they think [Fix Jersey Now] is a stalking horse for Bill Spadea for governor in 2025.” 

Spadea said his son has nothing to do with the effort. 

An official with the New Jersey Republican Party did not return a request for comment. 

Joe Labarbera, chairman of the Sussex County Republican Party, is a big fan of Fix Jersey Now’s ballot-gathering initiative.

“As I understand it, it really is a strong voter outreach effort that has the potential to target a lot of voters in New Jersey who typically don’t vote and would vote if a quality candidate was offered to them,” he said.

While he said the state party is pushing an aggressive vote-by-mail initiative, Labarbera said the Jersey GOP needs to change its entire structure. He said the party is chasing a Democrat machine that cranks out operatives and politicians in relentlessly pursuing victory.

“The root cause is the political culture,” Labarbera told me. “The New Jersey Democrats are like a ruthless gang. The Republicans are like a gentlemen’s country club trying to figure out where the battle is. We’re basically France dealing with Nazi Germany.”

Spadea’s data-cruncher partner, Fred Bartlett, a computer science professor at the Community College of Baltimore County, said Republicans’ reluctance in drawing from the left’s GOTV playbook largely stems from conservatives having a “moral compass.” Republicans’ opposition to ballot collection can dissuade them from doing it, even in the dozens of states where the practice is legal in some capacity. 

The stink of malfeasance surrounds ballot harvesting, lingering from the 2020 presidential election when leftist groups used the cover of Covid to dramatically expand vote-by-mail, drop boxes, and other election security-troubled methods to help Democrats win. Conservative organizations like the America First Policy Institute have rightly called for a ban on ballot harvesting. 

But for now, that ship has sailed.  

‘Play the Hand We’re Dealt’ 

California Democrats have used ballot harvesting, among other things, to make Golden State Republicans all but obsolete. California Republicans have seen the light and plan to roll out ballot collection operations during this pivotal election year. Jessica Millan Patterson, chairwoman of the California GOP, told CalMatters that the party is playing by the rulebook it’s been handed. 

“It doesn’t make any sense to only be Election Day voters. That is like only playing three quarters of a football game,” she said, countering conservative purists who don’t want anything to do with ballot collection. 

Ballot harvesting appears to be top of mind at the top of the RNC. Newly-elected Republican National Committee co-chair Lara Trump told the Washington Examiner that Republicans have “been playing checkers, and the Democrats have been playing chess.” 

“Unfortunately, we don’t have one day of voting, we don’t have paper ballots, we don’t have voter ID everywhere. So we have to play the hand that we’re dealt,” Trump told the publication, noting the importance of early voting and mail-in voting where possible. “That way, we have votes banked as we head into Election Day, and we’re not playing catch up on Nov. 5 with the Democrats.”

‘Every Opportunity’

In deep-blue New Jersey, tax-and-spend Democrats rule the roost. Although the GOP has added half a million voters in the past decade and a half, the roughly 1.5 million people who are registered Republicans in the state make up less than a quarter of the more than 6.5 million registered to vote. 

“If it’s a two-party system the GOP doesn’t exist in New Jersey because it’s running third,” Bartlett said. The Democratic Party boasts nearly 2.5 million registered voters, followed by nearly 2.4 million unaffiliated voters

Since most of the increase in Republican numbers since 2009 occurred after 2015, Bartlett chalks it up to Donald Trump entering the presidential race that year. The New Jersey Republican Party lost nearly 16,000 GOP registered voters between 2010 and 2015, during the tenure of a Republican governor. 

Of the 40 legislative districts in the Garden State, Republican voters are the majority in just five, Bartlett says. To win, the GOP has to count on an ample amount of disaffection from Democrats and unaffiliated voters. 

Labarbeara runs one of the more successful county parties in the state, but even in Sussex County where Republicans decisively won the last election unaffiliated voters are the majority. But 65 percent lean conservative, the GOP chairman says. He said in 14 legislative districts with a majority of unaffiliated voters, the lean is conservative. In 10 of those districts, Republicans lost by small margins. Labarbeara said Democrats spent $50 to $60 per voter compared to 18 cents to a quarter for Republicans.

“This could be a game changer,” he said of the ballot-harvesting effort. “It could flip a lot of legislative district seats, especially where we’re losing by a sliver.”

The people behind Fix Jersey Now agree. But it may be a piecemeal affair. New Jersey statute bars a ballot collector, aka an “authorized messenger,” from delivering ballots for “more than three qualified voters in an election,” although a person may assist a total of five voters “if those voters are immediate family members residing in the same household.” It would seem any ballot collecting initiative would require an army of volunteers. Spadea contends it’s all about ground game and, so far, the left has the numbers. 

Spadea says the time for talking and complaining about the evils of ballot gathering is over. 

“I’m an old timer. I like to vote on Election Day. But we’ve got to fight the war that we’re in,” he said. “Every opportunity, every avenue of effort has to be taken.” 


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