Well, it looks like the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark isn’t going to monitor the July 7 primary election locally to ensure there isn’t voter fraud.
That’s too bad. There have been too many shady political operations in the Atlantic City area, too many elections where the choices of voters at the polls have been overturned by large quantities of poorly secured mail and messenger ballots of dubious origin.
A month ago, 2nd District Democratic congressional candidate Brigid Callahan Harrison and three local candidates asked U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito to monitor the primary for vote fraud. “This has been an issue in Atlantic County for quite some time,” she said.
We don’t prefer her or any other candidate, especially in a primary where political parties must be free to choose their standard bearer. But we’ve been concerned about vote rigging for a long time and hope politicians of all parties will be consistent in their support for measures to ensure election integrity.
Back in 2017, we urged this same U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate possible vote fraud in that year’s election. Atlantic City’s Republican mayor, Don Guardian, had presented strong evidence of vote buying — people saying they had been paid $30 each for producing three messenger ballots.
State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal wouldn’t investigate, and neither would the U.S. attorney. In a Hudson County case the following year, at least charges were brought alleging voters were paid $50 each in the Hoboken election. The apparent higher cost of North Jersey vote buying reminds us of author and Temple University history professor Bryant Simon’s observation, “For $25,000, you can’t buy any votes in New York City. But you can buy a lot of votes in Atlantic City.”
The pandemic poses a potential nationwide crisis in voting integrity, since the mail and messenger ballots favored for fraud are becoming the standard as many places seek to avoid interactions with registered voters going to polling places, identifying themselves and casting their ballots.
When boards of election in New Jersey receive those ballots, they must be more lenient in accepting the signatures on them as valid. A U.S. District Court recently ordered: “Evaluators should presume that the documents were signed by the same person and must accept a signature as valid unless there is a clear discrepancy that cannot be reasonably explained.” Like what, a different name?
Ballot fraud isn’t restricted to one party, and parties tend to deny its existence until it works against them. Democrats nationally who denied there is meaningful vote fraud then trumpeted a 2018 case of ballot harvesting that favored a North Carolina Republican, resulting in charges and a repeat of the election.
And yet, the Democratic U.S. House has passed a bill that would require election districts nationwide to let paid activists canvass neighborhoods and harvest absentee ballots. The ballots then could be counted after Election Day as long as they were postmarked — an insecure, often illegible bit of printing — by that day. This is already the rule in Pennsylvania, where nine days after this month’s primary Philadelphia had 42,255 votes to count.
As we’ve said before, all Americans — regardless of their party affiliation if any — need to take the validity of their elections more seriously. Political animosity is extreme and too many people believe getting power by any means is justified, including seeking unfair advantages in the election process.
Ballots must be secure and the identity of registered voters verified. Exceptions should be rare and justified.
American democracy is far more valuable than any political party could ever be. It can only function and survive if it has the confidence and support of nearly all of its citizens.