President Donald Trump set his sights on Jersey City during his first term in the White House, share the lie that he saw thousands of people there cheering for the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11.
Now seeking re-election, Trump has another New Jersey town in his sights: Paterson. The House of a recent case of suspected electoral fraudSilk City has become a talking point for the president and the GOP as Trump tries to link postal voting with corruption.
Trump has cited Paterson’s case three times this summer on Twitter. His re-election campaign, which is sue Governor Phil Murphy to prevent New Jersey from running a largely postal election in the fall, claims in its complaint that the Paterson case should have convinced Murphy not to send mail ballots to every voter.
Trump’s targeting of Paterson irritates everyone from Murphy to Paterson’s mayor Andre Sayegh to electoral lawyer Scott Salmon. Salmon represents the potentially ousted Paterson city councilor who alleges his loss was the result of election shenanigans.
The president said on August 18 that universal postal elections lead to ballots “sent to dead people, sent to dogs, cats, sent to everyone”. There was absolutely voter fraud in Paterson, Salmon said, but that does not illustrate a problem with postal voting in general.
“There are a lot of holes or loopholes in the system; there are issues that need to be resolved, ”he said. “He’s usually not really one of them. I don’t think that should be used as a weapon to tarnish postal voting. “
The cast of Paterson’s election drama include 1st Ward Councilor Michael Jackson, 3rd Ward candidate Alex Mendez, two campaign agents for 2nd Ward candidate Shahlin Khalique and 3rd Ward incumbent William McKoy.
After the vote ended on May 12 – New Jersey’s first election ordered Murphy to be conducted almost entirely by mail – Mendez appears to have beaten McKoy by 240 votes.
Days before Mendez’s swearing-in, state attorney general Gurbir Grewal hit Jackson, Mendez and the campaign workers in Ward 2 with a multitude of charges. Grewal alleged that Jackson and Mendez took other voters’ ballots and turned them over to the Passaic County Election Board without signing the bearer certificate on the outer envelopes. Mendez is also accused of having obtained or submitted one or more applications for registration on the electoral rolls for people whom he knew were not qualified to vote in the district. Khalique campaign workers are also accused of distributing postal ballots without signing them as bearers.
After Paterson’s charges were dropped, Trump wrote on Twitter, “Mail ballots are fine. A person has to go through a process to obtain and use them. Postal voting, on the other hand, will lead to the most corrupt election in U.S. history. Bad things happen with Mail-Ins. Just look at the special election in Patterson, NJ, 19% of the ballots are FRAUD! “
Election officials disqualified 19% of the ballots in Paterson’s election, a striking number. In Paterson’s 2018 municipal election, 11% of postal votes were rejected. This figure was 5% in 2016.
Gregg Paster, who represented Mendez in a civil lawsuit over the election results, called Trump’s characterization of the race “wrong and wrong on every level. There was no “blatant fraud” in Paterson’s race, Paster said.
“The bigger issue is pretty much whether the ballots were carried and mailed by people without filling out the bearer certificate,” Paster said. “This is a much milder and less risky type of fraud. Now it is illegal; I do not deny it. I don’t particularly agree that it should be. I think you should be able to take 10 ballots in the mailbox for people, especially in the event of a pandemic. “
This week the judge overseeing the trial ordered a new election of the 3rd constituency in November.
The Trump campaign lawsuit against Murphy argues that New Jersey’s “sordid history of illegitimate elections,” including the Paterson affair, shows that he is ill-equipped to handle an election largely by mail-order. statewide.
All of this irritates Sayegh, who moans at the mere mention of Trump. Sayegh said the criminal case against the four men who prosecutors say behind the voter fraud scheme shows you can’t get away with voter fraud.
“He was identified immediately and these perpetrators were immediately brought to justice,” Sayegh said.
Murphy makes a similar point. The governor faces criticism not only from Trump but Republicans from all over New Jersey for ordering the November race to be largely by mail.
“People tried to play with the system, they got caught… and if they get convicted, they will pay the price,” Murphy said Wednesday. “For me, it’s the system that works.”
Jesse Burns, executive director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, said voters shouldn’t be concerned that Paterson’s claims point to a bigger problem with postal voting. The real problem, she said, is the political rhetoric that creates distrust of the electoral system in New Jersey and nationally, she said.
“There’s this national and state narrative that asks questions about how we can participate and where can I get reliable information and who can I trust and what kind of trick is on it and what are the real and false information, and that’s unfortunate, ”she said. noted.
Terrence T. McDonald is a reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please register or activate your digital account today.