The Essex County Board of Elections has referred five vote-by-mail ballots cast after the polls closed in Cedar Grove to federal and state law enforcement officials.
Councilman Harry Kumburis, who lost his seat in Tuesday’s non-partisan municipal election by 33 votes, was caught on tape after 10 PM ringing a doorbell in what could be viewed as an effort to get voters who requested VBM ballots to return them.
A customer service manager at the Newark Main Post Office, which operates 24 hours-a-day, alleged in a letter to election board officials that a man approached a U.S. Postal Police officer at approximately 10 PM on Election Day requesting a postmark on the ballots.
The man, who was not identified in the letter, received a postmark, but the ballots were invalidated today because they did not include a bearer signature – which is used to establish a chain of custody in the process.
Board of Elections chair Bethany O’Toole said she believed the two incidents were connected but declined to release the post office worker’s letter because it would likely be used in an investigation.
The matter has been referred to the U.S. Attorney and Essex County Prosecutor for investigation into possible mail and voter fraud, O’Toole said.
A new state law requires allows election officials to count VBM ballots received 48 hours of the close of polls be counted as long as they are postmarked on or before election day.
The New Jersey Globe first reported Wednesday that Kumburis — who lost his re-election bid to incumbent Peter Tanella and his running mate, Joe Maceri — was ringing doorbells of voters who requested but had not returned vote-by-mail ballots late at night after the results of the election were announced.
“What we just heard that a person or persons outrageously attempted to corrupt exploit our system of democracy and the political process,” said Maceri, who was at the Board of meeting Friday. “I am in shock that not only are we hearing that someone delivered ballots at or about 10 PM. on election, but that we are hearing this on the heels of discovering the video that was released by the various media outlets and that we know ballots were attempted to be collected after the election.”
Kumburis’ running mate, James Palma, said that he was unaware of any events that occurred after the polls had closed.
“Once the polls were closed, as far as I was concerned, the polls were closed,” Palma said. “When it was over, it was over.”
Kumburis did not immediately respond to a 6:28 PM call seeking comment.
David Wildstein assisted with this story.