Accusing New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy of a “brazen power grab,” President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has asked a federal judge to overturn New Jersey’s plan to send ballots to all 6.2 million registered voters this fall. The suit was filed in US District Court by the Trump campaign, joined by the Republican National Committee and the New Jersey Republican State Committee. Among their lawyers is state Senator Michael Testa (R-Cumberland County), a frequent critic of Governor Phil Murphy. “In the state of New Jersey, where their universal vote-by-mail system has already resulted in fraud and disenfranchisement, Governor Murphy continues to remove safeguards against abuse,” Trump campaign counsel Matt Morgan said. “With a stroke of his pen, the governor told his people their votes may not count – they may even be stolen – and that’s fine by him.”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has sought to expand mail voting due to the coronavirus pandemic, and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the state will sue the US Postal Service over concerns the Trump administration is purposely crippling the agency ahead of the surge in mail-in ballots. Postmaster General Louis Dejoy on August 18 backed off on making changes blamed for delaying mail delivery, but Grewal said the lawsuit would proceed and the House is to vote on August 22 to rescind the adjustments to mail operations already made. “Governor Murphy has consistently put people ahead of politics and protected the health and safety of New Jersey residents throughout the pandemic, and his decision to allow universal mail in voting in the November election is no different,” state Democratic chairman John Currie said. “President Trump’s lawsuit is another clear attack on our democracy and on our voting rights, just like his efforts to destroy the Post Office and delegitimize the electoral process.” President Donald Trump and other Republicans, though, claimed that more absentee balloting would lead to more vote fraud. “We said every option was on the table,” New Jersey Republican Party Chairman Doug Steinhardt said. “We picked one. Governor Murphy, we’ll see you in court, again.” The Trump campaign also has sued Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Iowa, which also have sought to expand vote by mail, according to Rick Hasen a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, and author of a blog on election law.
Studies have shown vote by mail has not prompted widespread fraud, as Republicans have claimed. A 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found that the rate of voter fraud for mail-in ballots was 0.00004% to 0.0009%. And the Washington Post found possible double voting or voting on behalf of dead people in just 372 of 14.6 million ballots cast in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, which send ballots to all registered voters as New Jersey plans to do this fall. Still, there were cases of voter fraud in Paterson’s municipal elections in May, where 800 ballots were thrown out and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal brought charges against four individuals. “In New Jersey’s primary election, dead people voted, a mail truck carrying ballots actually caught fire, countless voters saw their ballots rejected, and the Democrat attorney general is prosecuting multiple people for fraud, yet Democrats still want to implement a rushed transition to an all-mail election,” Republican National Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. Governor Phil Murphy acknowledged some problems with the July 7 primary, the first election conducted primarily by mail but said that the system overall worked well and county clerks will have a lot more time to prepare for the general election.
Primary turnout was 26% of New Jersey’s registered voters, the same percentage as the presidential primary four years ago. Both recorded the highest percentage turnout since 2008 when 35% of New Jersey voters cast ballots. “We think largely it was a very good result, particularly balancing the sacred right to vote at the center of democracy along with public health and respecting people’s health and the combination of vote-by-mail and in-person,” Governor Phil Murphy said August 10 at his coronavirus press briefing. He also contended that the fact that the Paterson voter fraud was easily found showed that systems are in place to prevent ballots from being cast illegally. “I view that data point in Paterson as a positive one,” Murphy said during his coronavirus press briefing. “People tried to mess with the system and they got caught and they’ve been indicted, and that’s the way it should be.”
President Donald Trump and other Republicans have cited fear of fraud in fighting efforts across the country by states to send out ballots to all registered voters or count votes postmarked by Election Day but received later. They have been been able to be so active because this is the first presidential election in almost four decades where the Republican National Committee’s voter activities are not encumbered by court-ordered restrictions stemming from the 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial election. Those activities had been limited by a court decree after the state Republican Party was accused of targeting heavily minority communities that tend to support Democratic candidates.