MAYOR BOLLWAGE AND ELIZABETH CITY COUNCIL CALL UPON LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR FOR UNIFORM VOTE BY MAIL BALLOTS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kelly Vence
908-820-4124
Public Information Office
 
MAYOR BOLLWAGE AND ELIZABETH CITY COUNCIL CALL UPON LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR FOR UNIFORM VOTE BY MAIL BALLOTS
 
ELIZABETH, NJ—June 18, 2015 - In a letter sent to Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, Mayor J. Christian Bollwage and the Elizabeth City Council have requested the implementation of a statewide, uniform Vote by Mail (VBM) ballot, which mirrors the sample ballot issued to voters. This effort would provide clarification while reducing fraud.  
 
Although all candidates and the parties they represent are included on the current VBM, the layout is confusing to voters. The VBM design does not list the individuals running for elected office within the same rows and columns as portrayed on the sample ballot voters receive in the mail. This altered form has created confusion for many residents and made their ability to cast their vote more difficult. Furthermore, this presentation of information has produced a mechanism for voter fraud and dishonest practices to more easily occur.   
 
"Preserving the reliability and authenticity of each vote is imperative to achieving the result, which most accurately reflects the purpose and intention of the voter," said Mayor Bollwage. "Without a statewide standardized VBM ballot, which is an exact replica of the sample ballot introduced to the voter, the risk for manipulation and deceit remains."
 
Through the years, the number of residents utilizing the VBM method has increased significantly, due to the flexibility and convenience it provides. However, the ballot being used to cast a Vote by Mail is not formatted in a manner that ensures the integrity of the voting process is protected. An editorial featured within the June 17, 2015 Star Ledger  newspaper, entitled Democrats' proposal to boost voting beats GOP's stay-home plan, details historical fraud in regard to mail-in ballots and referenced "...many cases in New Jersey of hucksters submitting such ballots on behalf of voters who never even received them." The editorial went on to state that "...mail-in ballots can also be chaotic, encouraging honest mistakes..."
 
The number of mail-in ballots requested compared with those returned has been low, which raises questions regarding the validity and accuracy of  requests as well as lists updated and maintained for this purpose.  Five days prior to the June 2, 2015 Primary, 874 Vote by Mail ballots were requested and only 184 were returned in the City of Elizabeth. This significant discrepancy raised concerns in reference to the missing VBMs and claims made about ballots being held by Board of Education (BOE) employees, who were seeking to alter election results.  Furthermore, allegations surfaced  that voters were encouraged by BOE members to sign blank applications for mail-in ballots and messenger names were filled in at a later date; an action that would be deemed voter fraud.     
 
In an effort to raise awareness regarding these issues and seek guidance in addressing the current VBM format, Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi was contacted with a request to explore the matter further. However, Ms. Rajoppi would not entertain a discussion regarding the difficulties the VBM ballot produced in its current form nor its potential for compromising voter intent. 
Realizing the importance and impact of this matter, the Elizabeth City Council passed a resolution on June 9, 2015, recommending the modification of the existing ballot.  
 
"The right to vote enables individuals to choose a candidate, who best represents their values, opinions and point of view within an elected office," said Councilman Carlos Torres. "However without a clear, defined and user-friendly format, voters can be mislead in the completion of their Vote by Mail ballots or become so discouraged that the ballot is never returned."