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Hirsh Singh. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Two GOP chairmen slam Singh over mailer urging duplicate ballots

Singh says letters intended for voters who didn’t return VBM ballots

By Nikita Biryukov, June 25 2020 1:18 pm

Two Republican County chairmen slammed U.S. Senate Candidate Hirsh Singh over a mailer telling voters to ask their county clerk for a second ballot if they’ve already voted for primary rival Rik Mehta.

“In all my years participating in Republican politics this is a first. Singh is telling voters, vote early and if you change your mind, vote again. Al Capone would be proud.” Camden County Republican Chairman Rich Ambrosino said. “I never thought I would live to see the day when a candidate for any office actually begged voters to change a vote they already cast.”

Mehta has the Republican line in Camden County.

Singh’s mailer tells voters that their second ballot would replace the first.

“As a patriot, if you have been hoodwinked into voting for Rik Mehta, it is your patriotic duty to contact your county clerk and request a duplicate ballot to vote for the only Conservative Hirsh Singh,” the mailer says. “Your duplicate ballot will replace your earlier ballot.”

Singh insisted the mailer was not telling voters to attempt an electoral redo, saying the letter was intended for voters who had filled but not returned their mail-in ballots.

“We’re not saying cast two ballots. You’re getting a duplicate ballot which supersedes your first ballot. You’re only casting one ballot. They don’t count the first one,” Singh told the New Jersey Globe. “When they receive it and they have to count, they take them and say ‘this ballot is not counted.’”

That was not immediately clear from the letter’s wording, which suggests election officials will count the latest ballot received.

Election officials told the New Jersey Globe that, while sending in multiple ballots wouldn’t necessarily disenfranchise a voter, the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) would stop officials from processing a duplicate ballot

“The first ballot is the one that’s going to be counted. We would not be able to receive or count a second ballot. There’s no do-overs in voting,” Hunterdon County Board of Elections Administrator Beth Thompson said. “It would be the same thing as asking someone to go into a voting booth, and they cast their ballot and they ask ‘oh, I didn’t do it right, can I do it again?’”

While voters can request a second ballot if they lost or damaged their first one, five county clerks told the New Jersey Globe that voters who have already cast a ballot would not be able to request a replacement.

“You don’t just say ‘oops, I voted for the wrong guy. I sent my ballot in. Give me a new ballot. The board has received my first ballot and now I have a second ballot, so they’re going to throw my first ballot away,’” Hunterdon County Clerk Mary Melfi said. “That’s not going to happen in any county.”

Voting twice is a third-degree felony in New Jersey. Such crimes can result in a jail sentence of up to five years and up to $10,000 in fines.

Despite the fail-safes, some voters have managed to get two ballots accepted, but both are likely to be tossed out in such situations.

A voter in Paterson’s 3rd Ward who cast two ballots during May’s non-partisan municipal elections had their ballots invalidated, according to a SVRS entry provided to the New Jersey Globe by election lawyer Scott Salmon.

Singh’s bid for Senate is his third run at office since 2017. That year, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor, placing third with about 9.8% of the vote. He finished second during his 2018 bid for the second congressional district’s House seat.

But the mailer may sap much of the goodwill the candidate has earned with party insiders over the last four years.

“I have enjoyed our many conversations and always felt there was a bright future ahead for you in the electoral politics, however, actions like this cause me, and undoubtedly others, to question any future consideration you may seek,” Essex County Republican Chairman Al Barlas said in a letter to Singh. “Failure on Election Day doesn’t preclude you from future support; your behavior and the way you conduct your campaign will.”

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