This past Wednesday, the Board of Elections – reacting to a mounting body of evidence – reported they had referred a wide range of issues from the recent 4th ward election to the Hudson County Prosecutor. As a vocal opponent of voter fraud and intimidation, I have spoken repeatedly on the many indications that this election was fraught with such problems. Unfortunately, after reading her letter to the editor last week, it would seem Assemblywoman Quigley felt my concerns and request for County intervention were inappropriate and even went so far to state that some people had implied that “that casting a vote by mail is inherently suspicious.” Respectfully, I reject both these claims.
In her letter Assemblywoman Quigley “as the sponsor of the legislation in New Jersey that expanded and encouraged the use of vote-by-mail ballots” claimed credit for expanding voter opportunities. While this legislation did expand voter opportunity, it also multiplied the possibilities for mischief. Under the current law, agents of political campaigns are permitted to handle as many Vote by Mail ballots as they can get their hands on. Campaign operatives are free to come to a voter’s doors on the day a ballot is scheduled to arrive and ‘encourage’ the voter to hand it over to them. And they do, in ever increasing numbers. When that happens, the precious right to a secret ballot is put in jeopardy. We must always remember the privilege to Vote by Mail belongs to the voter, not to the campaigns. The voter should have the convenience and freedom to mail their ballot themselves or turn it over to a close family member. Other than physical incapacity, there is no legitimate reason for a campaign operative to mail or deliver the ballot instead of the voter.
Assemblywoman Quigley asserts “other states have used mail-in ballots for years, and New Jersey was somewhat behind the times until 2005.” I say we still are and there's more work to do. The current law – as it is being applied – has moved us further from the goal of ensuring clean and fair elections. As the old saying goes, freedom isn’t free, and part of the price we pay for our democracy is remaining vigilant. By asking the proper authorities to review the recent election we are exercising our obligation as citizens to do just that. As that review progresses, ideas will emerge to keep what’s good in our current law and improve what needs improving. I will be reaching out to Assemblywoman Quigley and others to work to make our Vote By Mail law as strong as it can be. I look forward to working with her.