New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has filed voter fraud charges against four men, including two Paterson City officials, who allegedly engaged in a mail-in ballot scheme during a special election last month.
Grewal charged Paterson City Councilman Michael Jackson, Councilman-elect Alex Mendez, and two other men after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service alerted the state attorney general's office that it had found hundreds of ballots in a single Paterson City mailbox, InsiderNJ reported.
Michael Jackson (left), Alex Mendez (right). Image source: New Jersey Office of Attorney General
According to WNBC-TV, more than 3,000 ballots were set aside over voting fraud concerns in the Paterson City Council election — 16,747 were received, but only 13,557 were accepted — meaning a whopping 19%, or nearly 1-in-5, were rejected.
More than 800 of the rejected ballots were invalidated because they were found tethered together in mailboxes.
The alleged voter fraud is particularly significant in the election because one incumbent councilman kept his seat by just eight votes, while Mendez was elected by fewer than 250 votes, WNBC reported.
Jackson was charged with four crimes, including fraud in casting mail-in vote and falsifying records. From the attorney general's office:
It is alleged that Jackson violated state election laws as a candidate by approaching one or more voters in Paterson in the district where he was running and collecting their official mail-in ballots for delivery to the Passaic County Board of Elections. It is further alleged that these mail-in ballots were delivered to the Board of Elections without information identifying the bearer, in violation of state election laws. In addition, Jackson allegedly procured and had in his possession more than three official mail-in ballots which were neither his own ballots, nor ballots for which he was identified as an authorized bearer. Lastly, Jackson allegedly received the official mail-in ballot of one voter without the ballot having been voted or sealed, and that ballot was subsequently delivered to the Board of Elections in a sealed envelope without information identifying the bearer.
Mendez was hit with six criminal charges, including election fraud and falsifying records. From the Attorney General's Office:
It is alleged that Mendez violated state election laws as a candidate by approaching one or more voters in Paterson in the district where he was running and collecting their official mail-in ballots for delivery to the Passaic County Board of Elections. It is further alleged that these mail-in ballots were delivered to the Board of Elections without information identifying the bearer in violation of state election laws. In addition, Mendez allegedly procured or submitted one or more voter registration applications, which he knew to be false, fictitious, or fraudulent, in that he knew the person for whom the application was procured was not eligible to vote in the election district identified on the application.
"Today's charges send a clear message: if you try to tamper with an election in New Jersey, we will find you and we will hold you accountable," Grewal said. "We will not allow a small number of criminals to undermine the public's confidence in our democratic process."
According to the Paterson Times, Jackson faces more than 10 years in prison while Mendez faces more than 31 years in prison.
The charges were filed as Democrats nationwide push for mail-in voting as a method to reduce coronavirus spread. Republicans generally oppose mail-in voting, arguing it opens the door to voter fraud.