Republican lawmakers call on AG to ensure secure vote-by-mail process

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Former Mayor Francesco A. Caramagna

MORRIS COUNTY — Following the arrest of Elmwood Park’s Mayor Frank Caramagna on election fraud charges, a group of Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal requesting his office provide guidelines that would allow the N.J. Division of Elections to issue rules to county superintendents of elections for the purpose of ensuring a secure vote-by-mail process.

Caramagna, who was forced to resign, is accused of filling in vote-by-mail ballots of other registered voters during the 2017 election. Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi and Assemblyman Robert Auth, of the 39th Legislative District, and Assemblymen Kevin J. Rooney and Christopher DePhillips, of the 40th Legislative District, cited this incident and several others in the letter.

“Voting is a linchpin of democracy, and protecting the rights of our voters and the integrity of our elections must be resolved promptly and fairly,” they wrote.

In August 2018, Governor Murphy signed a new vote-by-mail law that caused confusion because the state did not provide proper guidance on interpretation and implementation prior to it going into effect. Under the law, voters who signed up for and got mail-in ballots for the 2016 general election will continue to be sent those ballots for all future elections unless they opt-out in writing to their respective county clerks. If they don’t opt-out, they are required to vote by mail or fill out a provisional ballot at the polls.

“Vote-by-mail ballots provide easy opportunities for fraud and hastily implemented changes have only lead to more confusion for officials and voters,” the lawmakers wrote. “It is imperative that rules are prepared and distributed to county superintendents of elections to prevent this from happening during the 2019 primary and general elections.”

In addition to securing the integrity of the vote-by-mail process, the lawmakers called for a thorough investigation of any alleged voter fraud, which is consistent with the attorney general’s initiative to combat corruption and increase confidence in government in the newly created Office of Public Integrity & Accountability (OPIA).