Why vote-by-mail can lead to fraud
Nov 21, 2010 | 3032 views | 4 4 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Dear Editor:

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.

Mike Lenz

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November 22, 2010
Ms Quigley, pardon my delayed reply. I had difficulty getting to my laptop due to the 900 lb gorilla in the room.

Messengers for viable pieces of mail, Ms Quigley? Hundreds of such pieces of mail? And the illusive sense of honor that fails to keep people from tampering with our elections in the 1st place magically returns when they count out the number of ballots they can take to the PO?

I need to remind you that you are telling these fairy tales to very committed people who are doing all in their power to change decades of foul play in Hoboken's elections. Frankly, your remarks are a little insulting both to one's common sense and to the seriousness of this matter, now floated up to the AG.

Voter apathy has 2 main sources. 1) Pure apathy. 2) Thinking your vote doesn't matter. We have a lot of #2 in town. Pretending the issue is voter intimidation rather than abuse of VBMs adds to the quantity of #2.

November 21, 2010
Ms. Quigley,

with all due respect, you must know (just like the rest of us) that there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for any vote-by-mail ballot bearers, let alone bearers who legally handle multiple ballots. We live in the 21th century in a country with an extremely affordable and highly reliable mail delivery system, so anybody who so desires can mail in his/her vote-by-mail ballot. Also, isn't it quite ironic that your legislation even calls them "vote-by-MAIL" ballots rather than "vote-by-BEARER" ballots?

Now on to the more technical points of your post.

First, you state that Mr. Lenz's assertion that "agents of political campaigns are permitted to handle as many Vote by Mail ballots as they can get their hands on" is absolutely untrue. So are you saying that it would be impossible for a campaign to hire more than one ballot bearer? Otherwise, Mr. Lenz is obviously exactly right with his statement.

Second, you stated the following: "The limit of ten ballots per messenger was set because in past elections -- in Hoboken and elsewhere -- there had been abuse in ballot gathering." This immediately begs the question "If you had knowledge of such abuse, what exactly did you do to have the perpetrators held responsible for their illegal acts?

Third, you said that "there is nothing at all shameful about voting by mail, and people must not be made to feel their actions are inherently under suspicion if they choose to vote that way." Here I happen to agree with you, as long as the voting is done by mail. Where I draw the line is when a campaign hires unusually large numbers of campaign workers who also all vote by mail. Matters get even worse when many of these campaign workers' ballots are handled by agents of the campaign they work for. Don't you agree that if campaign workers are physically and mentally capable of working for a campaign, they would certainly be able to send their ballots by mail without any involvement of bearers.
November 21, 2010
Ms. Quigley,

I congratulate you on your intention to address VBM legislation. However, your legislation still allows for abuses to occur. Your legistlation allows bearers to bring in 10 ballots at a time- that bearer can make multiple trips or someone may find 30 or more bearers to make one trip each. There is presumably no need to have bearers,as one must mail in their request for ballot and receive ballot by mail, thus one can conceivably mail in their vote as well. Allowing even one bearer, allows for the possibility of pervasive fraudulent issues, let alone allowing bearers to carry 10 ballots each time.

I also commend you for being interested in continuing to improve the VBM legistlation. May I suggest that you remove bearers (in total)from your legistlation? This, past 4th ward election allowed for the same person to come in time and time again or allowed multiple bearers to carry 10 ballots per time. At one point there were more than 5 bearers from the occhipinti campaign waiting on line to sign in their mulitple ballots (this can be verified by checking the sign in book at he BOE), and another carful of people from the same campaign was pulling up outside of the BOE. Incidently, those making the mulitple ballot drop offs, coincidently were on an elec report as an admin cost in the amount of $200-$300-multiple times. Curioulsy, 78 out of 79 of the elec workers voted by mail as well. I expect to see the typical, almost 1:1 ratio of VBM votes/$40 paid elec worker, on the next elec report, as well. While one can say this is happenstance and make all kinds of excuses, most know it is fraud. It has been happening here for years. As a sponsor of this bill I assume you must have looked into a few of these reports.

Another helpful solution would be to mandate that voter rolls be updated annually. There were multiple issues of non residents voting, but they were on the voter rolls, as such, they got to vote. We've had cases of people voting in our city for 8 or more years, while holding sole and primary residency elesewhere for that same duration. This cannot be allowed to continue. This is not the will of the residents but the will of an illegal fraudulent practice, robbing our citzens of their choice to elect an official. This practice must be stopped immediately.

Fair or not, As the sponsor of this legislation, many hold you accountable to oversee your legislation and expect you to make appropriate changes to protect our citizens. This is a very disenfranchised electorate who will no longer tolerate fraudlent practices. I strongly urge you to follow up and protect the citizens of our community.
November 21, 2010
I am so pleased that former Councilman Mike Lenz is eager to work with me to eliminate any perception that anyone who votes by mail will be under suspicion. Reading the current law might be a great start, as it specifically limits the number of ballots anyone can handle to ten. His comment that "agents of political campaigns are permitted to handle as many Vote by Mail ballots as they can get their hands on" is absolutely untrue.

The limit of ten ballots per messenger was set because in past elections -- in Hoboken and elsewhere -- there had been abuse in ballot gathering. The law I sponsored was specifically designed to prevent this type of abuse and included significant penalties for proven violations. Fraud should never be tolerated. Proven abuse should always be punished. In my mind, there is no question about that, and I am satisfied the Attorney General and/or other law enforcement agencies will act appropriately in investigating any elections in which abuse was alleged. I also hope that the statements made by some interested parties during the election were not attempts at voter suppression. There is nothing at all shameful about voting by mail, and people must not be made to feel their actions are inherently under suspicion if they choose to vote that way. I encourage interested voters to do that whenever it suits them. As one of the bloggers noted, I do not represent Hoboken and do not live or vote there. I had no interest in the outcome of the election, but I have abiding interest in the integrity of the election process. I look forward to contact from Mr. Lenz and his suggestions for further improvements to the preservation of election purity.

Joan M. Quigley

Assemblywoman, District 32