Hundreds of vote-by-mail ballots in Paterson may have been improperly bundled - with those votes possibly being improper or illegal, election and postal officials said Monday.
Postal authorities have informed the Passaic County Board of Elections about the potential violations involving vote-by-mail ballots – ballots they discovered by the hundreds in some mailboxes. Those votes will be reviewed by election officials on Tuesday to decide if they are legitimate or fraudulent.
“Board of Elections Commissioners will determine tomorrow whether these ballots will be counted,” said county spokesman Keith Furlong. “Any potential irregularities will be handed off to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.”
The bundled ballots have not yet been opened so it is unclear if they help one specific candidate. The city council election in Paterson is vote-by-mail only intended to keep voters safe amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Some council candidates and their campaigns have been hurling accusations of ballot stealing and fraud. Perhaps the most heated race is in Paterson’s second ward between incumbent Shahin Khalique and former councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman.
A spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service said his office is aware of possible problems with the delivery and return of ballots. “We asked the Office of Inspector General (OIG) to conduct an investigation regarding potential issues with ballots in Paterson, New Jersey.”
A spokesman for NJ State Attorney Gurbir Grewal declined to comment if his office was aware of potential problems and whether they were monitoring the voting in New Jersey’s third largest, heavily democratic city. Spokesmen for the U.S. Postal Inspectors and the FBI also declined comment.
In recent years, some local council elections in Paterson have been decided by just dozens of votes. The hundreds of potentially fraudulent ballots have the potential to sway the outcome.
Paterson has seen numerous corruption scandals in recent years including the arrest and conviction of past Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres on charges of stealing from taxpayers.