ATLANTIC CITY — The Atlantic County Republican Committee has asked the state Attorney General’s Office to investigate possible tampering of vote-by-mail ballots after a voter claimed he received one that was already filled out.
But Dem-ocratic Atlantic County Clerk Edward McGettigan, while acknowledging the incident, said the office followed the “standard operating procedures” and has safeguards in place to prevent the situation from going further or happening again.
Randolph Lafferty, an attorney with Cooper Levenson representing the committee, sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General George Cohen dated Monday that requested an investigation into alleged vote-by-mail ballot tampering.
According to the letter, the registered voter went to the Office of the Atlantic County Clerk to get a ballot for the upcoming election and received one that was allegedly already filled out with votes cast for Democrats Phil Murphy for governor, Councilman Frank Gilliam for mayor and George Tibbitt for City Council.
The ballot was allegedly reported to the Clerk’s Office, and the voter was eventually given a “clean” ballot to use, according to Lafferty’s letter.
McGettigan sent a letter in response Tuesday, addressed to Cohen, acknowledging that a voter returned a ballot that had votes cast on it after applying for a vote-by-mail ballot on Friday, in person, at the clerk’s office in Mays Landing.
McGettigan said the application was processed following “standard operating procedures,” and the voter was given an official mail-in ballot envelope with a computer-generated label, a certificate of mail-in vote and Form 3, which is described in the letter as the Atlantic City ballot, which were placed in a sealed envelope.
According to McGettigan’s letter, the office took back the ballot and gave the voter a new, re-sealed envelope with a duplicate ballot inside.
“The Atlantic County Clerk’s Office does have in place enough safeguards to prevent this matter from going any further and can assure voters that this incident has not been duplicated and that all election materials are locked and are inaccessible to the general public,” the letter from McGettigan said.
The Attorney General’s Office received the letter Tuesday, said Leeland Moore, spokesman for the office. Moore declined to comment further on the letter or a possible investigation.
“The Atlantic County Republican Committee remains committed to its goal of ensuring the integrity of the electoral process here in Atlantic County so that the citizens are afforded the opportunity to express their individual choice as to candidates for public office,” the letter from Lafferty says. “This obvious tampering with the vote-by-mail ballots seriously calls into question the practices within the Office of the Atlantic County Clerk and/or their ability to maintain the integrity of these ballots.”
The letter from Lafferty requests an investigation and that the attorney general take on “direct supervision” of the Clerks’ Office’s activities.
McGettigan said in his letter that a ballot can only be counted if it has the official mail-in ballot envelope with a label, as well as the certificate of mail-in vote signed by the voter.
Additional questions about the incident to the Atlantic County Clerk’s Office were not immediately returned.
Gilliam, who is named in the letter, said Tuesday he thinks it’s a shame that the office is being challenged and said he “couldn’t see” someone from the county tampering with the ballot.
“This is just one other way to try to suppress the vote,” Gilliam said. “I just take these things with a grain of salt.”
Keith Davis, chairman of the Atlantic County Republican Committee, said Tuesday that City Councilman Jesse Kurtz was the city voter who reported the incident.
Kurtz declined to comment Tuesday.