Gov. Phil Murphy wants two winners of the May 12 Paterson municipal election who were charged with ballot fraud to resign.
“Based on these accusations, Council member Jackson and Council member-elect Mendez must step aside as this investigation progresses,” Murphy said. “Anything else undermines the public’s sacred trust in democracy.”
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal yesterday accused Jackson and Mendez of tampering with vote-by-mail ballots in their narrow victories last month.
The new council is set to be sworn in on July 1.
Two state legislators from Paterson are concerned that election fraud charges will affect the reputation of their city.
“The consensus among residents is for them to step down,” said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-Paterson). “You have people charged with voter fraud. How can you trust them ethically? The cheated their way to win and now they wanted to be seated?”
Scandals that have rocked local politics in the state’s third-largest city for a generation bothers Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-Paterson).
“I start with a prayer for our city and the electoral process,” Sumter said. “We’ve been starting for good leadership to move the city forward. We’ve lost 20 years of opportunity.”
Sumter said that she “still believes in due process” and stopped short of calling for resignations at this time.
Both legislators suggested that vote-by-mail ballots might be part of the future, but some adjustments need to me made.
“We knew that there was not enough security in this election,” Sumter said.
Like most elected officials across the state, the Paterson legislators – both VBM supporters – realize that the coronavirus pandemic pushed the state into a local election conducted entirely by mail before it was completely reader.
Sumter noted that usual turnout numbers were increased in an all-VBM election.
Wimberly expressed concern that accusations of voter fraud could be a setback for mail-in ballots.
“People who are skeptical of vote-by-mail puts them in ‘I told you so mode,’” Wimberly said.