New Jersey state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced Thursday that he is charging four men, including a city councilman, with mail-in voter fraud.
Voting in the May 12 elections in New Jersey took place by mail-in ballots due to health concerns attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.
Of the 16,747 vote-by-mail ballots received, only 13,557 votes were counted. More than 3,190 votes — 19% of the total ballots cast — were disqualified.
According to Grewal, the charges came after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service discovered hundreds of mail-in ballots in the mailbox in Paterson.
"Today's charges send a clear message: if you try to tamper with an election in New Jersey, we will find you and we will hold you accountable," Grewal said in a statement. "We will not allow a small number of criminals to undermine the public's confidence in our democratic process."
Voters are allowed to complete a mail-in ballot themselves and return it through one of four ways. One of those options lets a voter give a ballot to a "bearer" who then completes a certification on the ballot in the presence of the voter.
The bearer is permitted to return the ballot on behalf of the voter, however, they are barred from collecting and delivering more than three ballots and a candidate is not permitted to be a bearer.
The following men were charged with mail-in voter fraud:
- Paterson City Councilman Michael Jackson, 48, violated these restrictions by collecting mail-in ballots in the same district where he was running. He also did not certify the ballots.
- Councilman-Elect Alex Mendez, 45, was also accused of trying to be a bearer in the same district he was running.
- Shelim Khalique, 51, dropped off mail-in ballots that were void of information identifying him as a bearer.
- Abu Razyen, 21, was seen on video footage flipping through more than three mail-in ballots that didn't have the bearer section completed.
Jackson faces up to 16 and a half years in prison and Mendez faces up to 31 and a half years. Both Khalique and Razyen are looking at jail time if convicted.