In light of new reports that State law enforcement officials are investigating a number of vote-by-mail ballots cast after polls closed in Tuesday’s Cedar Grove municipal election, District 40 lawmakers Senator Kristin Corrado and Assemblymen Kevin Rooney and Christopher DePhillips today announced that they will introduce new legislation to upgrade penalties and bar anyone from filing official and completed absentee ballots after polls close on Election Day.
The legislation, which will be formally introduced in both houses shortly, would correct action taken by Governor Murphy in 2018 that drastically changed the mail-in-ballot process in New Jersey. The new District 40 bill would apply to both primary and general elections statewide.
“Anyone who has the audacity to bang on doors at 10:30 p.m. to round up extra votes has no business serving in government. That’s an egregious violation of public trust,” Senator Corrado said. “Until we take corrective action to limit the overreach of these new mail-in-ballot laws, people like Harry Kumburis will continue to exploit the system – and they won’t always be caught on tape. There is no greater threat to our local democracy than a candidate who is so consumed by power that they will do anything to win. Let’s fix this law now, before another election is put in jeopardy.”
On Tuesday, Cedar Grove Councilman Harry Kumburis was caught on a doorbell surveillance video knocking on neighborhood doors at 10:30 p.m. at night – more than two hours after polls had closed – to urge local voters to complete and hand over their mail-in and absentee ballots, in hopes that a few more votes would help him secure his re-election, according to a report by The Record. He lost the election by more than 30 votes. The case was referred to law enforcement officials for prosecution by the Essex County Board of Elections.
Under the mail-in ballot law signed in 2018 by Governor Phil Murphy, vote-by-mail ballots that are received within 48 hours of the close of polls are eligible to be counted, as long as they are postmarked on Election Day.
The legislation planned for introduction by District 40 lawmakers would change the 2018 law by repealing the 48-hour rule, so that any ballot filed after polls close on Election Day will not be counted.
The lawmakers noted that under current law, candidates cannot be vote-by-mail bearers, which means that Councilman Kumburis allegedly already violated existing laws and should be held accountable. Additionally, under current law, anyone who is delivering vote-by-mail ballots, also known as a “bearer,” can only deliver three ballots at a time. Councilman Kumburis allegedly acted as a bearer, and attempted to file several mail-in-ballots at the same time.
To further prevent voter fraud, the new legislation would also upgrade the penalties for filing more than three mail-in-ballots at the same time; and for any candidate who poses as a bearer.
“Choosing who represents us in government is a sacred responsibility. It’s central to who we are as Americans. Anyone who tries to threaten our democracy should face a punishment that fits the crime,” Assemblyman Rooney said. “This commonsense bill would upgrade the penalties for breaking the law and correct the sweeping changes Governor Murphy made in 2018, so we can stop people from trying to rig elections, once and for all.”
“Voters shouldn’t have to question the legitimacy of our elections. They should leave their polling place with a sense of pride, knowing that they have done their civic duty and that their vote matters. Anyone who tries to steal votes must be held accountable,” Assemblyman DePhillips added. “This case proves that we need a much stronger deterrent to prevent voter fraud in Cedar Grove, and across New Jersey. I hope that we can come together on a bipartisan basis to take action to prevent these crimes from occurring in communities statewide.”