Atlantic County Republican Chairman Keith Davis is challenging all mail-in ballot applications that were partially filled out and mailed to Atlantic County residents by a political action committee.
The applications had the names and addresses of the recipients filled out. The applications were sent with a letter from former Democratic congressional candidate Bill Hughes Jr. that was paid for by General Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo and Freeholder Colin Bell for state Assembly.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Board of Elections Chairwoman Evelynn Caterson, Davis said Hughes failed to sign the assistor portion of the application.
“The subject applications provided are clearly partially completed by an assistor with the targeted voters’ personal information,” Davis wrote. “Presumably they were completed by Mr. Hughes since his letter accompanies the applications.”
Davis cited a New Jersey law that says anyone who assists a person in filling out a mail-in-ballot application must provide his or her name, address and signature in the assistor portion of the form.
Hughes said simply conducting a “mail merge” is not assistance and said the partially filled out application was a computer-generated item.
“It’s obvious that the Republican strategy here is to prevent people from exercising their right to vote,” Hughes said. “Mr. Davis is wrong on both the facts and the law. As a lawyer, he should know that.”
Davis said Democrats cannot “continue to make up their own rules when it comes to elections,” referring to the 2013 Assembly election when then-Assemblyman John Amodeo lost to Mazzeo after ballots challenged by Republicans were counted.
“Laws mean things. Rules mean something. They have to be adhered to,” Davis said. “If you’re going to assist someone, you’re allowed to do it. You just have to fully complete the form and it wasn’t done here.”
Ezra Reese, an attorney representing General Majority PAC, accused Davis of trying to disenfranchise voters who are trying to participate in this year’s elections.
“New Jersey law is clear that merely writing a voter’s name and address on a form is a ministerial act and does not require one’s signature as a messenger or assistor,” he said.
Atlantic County Democratic Chairman James Schroeder said Davis’ action was “indicative of the Republican party’s efforts to suppress voter participation at both the national and local levels.”
Mazzeo and Bell are running against Republican Assemblyman Chris Brown and Freeholder Will Pauls.
“It should come as no surprise that with six weeks to go until Election Day, Mazzeo remains silent while a North Jersey super PAC, with ties to those pushing for North Jersey casinos, continues to run his campaign,” Pauls said.
Super PACs cannot coordinate directly with candidates or political parties. Kevin Stamps, Mazzeo and Bell’s campaign manager, said the campaign didn’t know about the letters and applications.