Voting and Murphy's Law
By Rick Fuentes
More than a century before hashtags and messaging apps, the era of political bosses and patronage made New Jersey the punchline of jokes about voter fraud. Provincial anecdotes in Democrat county strongholds about the dead still voting and voting early and often have long come to epitomize the machine politics of a dark-blue state where Democrat voters outnumber Republicans two to one and control 15 of 21 counties.
Standalone electronic voting booths have been used in the state for decades. Unconnected to the Internet, they are paperless and store votes until the polls close, after which the results are downloaded and passed along to county and state election officials. There are no hanging chads or hand counts by half-sighted retirees. Voting improprieties are thwarted by the convenience, simplicity, and efficiency of in-person e-voting.
But in a presidential election already being contested before a single vote is cast, COVID is offering the Democrat machine ample opportunity to subvert election integrity.
Since early March, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has besieged Jerseyans with more than 70 pandemic-related diktats restricting the freedom of movement, commerce, and the practice of religion. Some have loosely followed science; others appear to be triggered by mere hunches, random predictions, and temper tantrums. Many were handed down with a blind eye to the Bill of Rights, a document the governor openly claimed to be “above my pay grade.”
On August 14, Murphy once again skirted convention, subverting federal election laws, breaking the protected custody of an e-vote, and evoking pandemic fears by issuing Executive Order 177. EO 177 writes off COVID downtrends by implying that in-person voting in a general election is a viral superspreader. The governor has dusted off the state’s voter rolls and will soon mail unrequested November ballots to six million registered voters still presumed to be alive and living at their last-known addresses.
Murphy’s actions rely upon premonition, an intuition he apparently lacked in late March when he approved his administration’s resettlement of infected seniors from hospital beds back to nursing homes. He continues to widen the gap between gubernatorial policy, science, and medical authority.
Eminent medical advice tells us that the customary protections — masks, sanitizers, and social distancing — make in-person voting as safe as going to the grocery store. There was no observable hike in cases after hundreds of thousands voted in the Wisconsin state primary in April. On its face, EO 177 smacks of the same disparate logic and treatment that allows some businesses to thrive and others to suffer without explanation. Have you seen the lines at New Jersey DMV offices, Mr. Murphy?
If one is not deterred from in-person voting, EO 177 puts another obstacle in one’s path. The decree empowers municipalities to open only one voting location and as few as 50 across counties. This creates hardships in the cities that will force otherwise in-person voters to submit their ballots by mail.
Fraud is often perpetrated in the final days leading up to an election, clogging the mail system and reducing scrutiny by way of third-party collection schemes or the sweeping and bundling of loose ballots. New Jersey offers many examples, at least one of which overturned a recent city council election in Paterson and brought about an indictment from the state attorney’s office. Murphy abets these scams by showing great empathy towards eleventh-hour voters, extending the vote for two days after the election by accepting ballots received without a postmark.
If the past is prologue, consider the four federal elections between 2012 and 2018, during which federal election officials claim that more than 28 million ballots went missing.
The go-between in the upcoming presidential election is the U.S. Postal Service. This is not a reflection on our favorite neighborhood letter carrier or a familiar and friendly postal clerk. It’s about having faith in relying on a two-and-a-half-century-old system that is a slow-moving juggernaut, is easily overwhelmed, operates year-to-year with a net loss, is technically primitive, and far less automated compared to its express mail competitors.
Prior to 2020, almost 14 million voters in five states were casting their ballots by mail. Cracks were beginning to appear in the postal system when a half-million ballots were disqualified in the 2020 primaries as either improperly completed or delivered too late. Since then, Democrat governors in California, Nevada, New Jersey, and Vermont, by act of a Democrat-controlled legislature, all citing the pandemic to implement mail-in voting in the November election, have brought the prospective postal workload to nearly 50 million.
The National Association of Letter Carriers, a labor union representing more than 300,000 postal workers, has thrown its political support and war chest behind the Joe Biden candidacy. We can only hope that mail-in ballots are deemed sacrosanct, as troubling security camera and cell phone videos have captured postal employees discarding GOP campaign fliers in Texas and Wisconsin, among other incidents of illegal vote alteration.
By pushing back the goalposts on election returns, the outcome of the presidential vote in New Jersey and the fate of the state’s 14 electoral votes could remain unknown for weeks, even months, if peremptory legal challenges are brought to bear. Murphy has pained to excuse this last-minute electioneering. Sweating through his makeup on a recent Chris Wallace interview on Fox, Murphy boasted of his hybrid voting model, curiously omitting any mention of the pandemic typed 22 times into EO 177 as a pretext to alter the November voting process.
On August 14, during an interview with CNN’s John Berman, Murphy claimed, “I’m pretty sure we have a higher probability of being hit by lightning than we do uncovering voter fraud.” He may be right, given a disjointed state voting process and the sheer volume of additional ballots heaped upon a national postal system shown inadequate to the task.
Besides, it’s a lot more difficult to uncover election fraud when you refuse to acknowledge that it even exists. At best, Murphy is being willfully obtuse. At worst, he’s adding a new chapter to the state’s sordid history of corruption.
Colonel Rick Fuentes (retired) is a 40-year veteran of the New Jersey State Police, serving 15 years as superintendent under three Democrat and one Republican governors.