Numerous residents are now complaining that they never received or sent in a vote-by-mail ballot — even though Passaic County Board of Election records show a ballot in their name was mailed in.
Ramona Javier made that exact complaint from her front stoop along Chestnut Street. “We did not receive vote by mail ballots and thus we did not vote,” she said in Spanish. When she was shown an official list of some of the people who voted on her block – and that her name was on that list — Javier said, ”This is corruption. This is fraud.”
Javier said there are eight relatives and immediate neighbors she knows of listed as having voted — but who insist they never even received ballots, including one relative who she says has been in Florida for weeks.
The local councilman, Luis Velez, said he knows of a dozen additional cases just like these across his ward.
“Where is the democracy in this? Where is the fair process?” Velez said.
Questions of corruption continue to grow about the vote-by-mail election across Paterson, New Jersey’s third largest city. Videos are surfacing online of a single voter carrying numerous ballots. Postal workers were seen leaving some ballots sitting out in building lobbies. And hundreds of filled out ballots were found by postal workers in single mailboxes in Paterson, suggesting a possible vote bundling operation which election experts say is a crime. In one case, officials said more than 300 Paterson city ballots were found in a single mailbox in an entirely different town: Haledon.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy did not address the specific problems boiling for days in Paterson during his coronavirus news briefing Wednesday. But when asked about possible corruption issues with the vote-by-mail elections across the state, Murphy said, ”It is too early to give you a full answer.”
Election officials have set aside more than 800 ballots so far amid corruption concerns in Paterson. One candidate, Ramon Joaquin said the Board of Elections was not being transparent about how officials were deciding to eliminate votes. “The 800 votes should be counted or the names of the people whose votes were suppressed should be released.”
Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh has voiced concern ballot-stealing operations may have been underway in some wards, and he said so-called ballot stuffing appeared to be a big problem. The mayor called on law enforcement authorities to investigate. Also calling for a criminal investigation was council candidate Frank Filippelli. He said he was also aware of voting problems he believed were criminal across the city.
State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has declined repeated requests from WNBC for an interview to answer questions about the voting problems in Paterson or to explain what his office is doing about the complaints. In a press conference last year at Paterson City Hall, Grewal acknowledged his office was off to a slow start in investigating various corruption allegations across the state.
A spokesman for US Attorney Craig Carpenito and a spokeswoman for the FBI New Jersey both said they would not discuss whether their offices are — or are not — investigating voting problems in Paterson.
Past council seat wins have been decided by a one or two dozen vote margin. Concerns with this election has Councilman Velez wondering if Governor Murphy might have to order a new election. He called for the FBI and Attorney Grewal to act.
“FBI and Attorney General – you went to school just because you want to be a law enforcer? Then enforce the law,” Velez said. “Lock them up. Show them that we have law here and that no one can be above the law.”