A video showing a large garbage bag mail full of undelivered found on a street in Paterson, NJ has triggered a U.S. Postal Service investigation, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
The mail was discovered on June 7, and while it’s not clear whether any vote-by-mail ballots were in the bag, it does enhance the focus on the reliability of the U.S. Postal Service in advance of next month’s statewide primary election where nearly 4 million vote-by-mail ballots are currently being sent out.
“Whole lot of mail out here in the garbage,” said Jacquice Smith, a Paterson resident who was among a group of residents who found the garbage bag. “That’s crazy.”
In a telephone interview, Smith said that he captured footage of a female postal worker dumping the bag of mail in his garbage can on his home security system.
He notified postal officials who came to retrieve the undelivered mail and told the Globe that they took the surveillance tape with them.
Smith said he was angered by neighborhood mail, including his own, being thrown away by a postal worker.
“That was fucked up,” he told the Globe.
Hundreds of pieces of mail are shown on the video, including what appears to be checks, bills, and at least one letter from the U.S. Social Security Administration.
“We are not aware of any ballots within the found mail in Paterson, New Jersey,” said George Flood, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service. “All mail in this incident was subsequently delivered.”
Flood declined to discuss details of the incident.
“The USPS Office of Inspector General’s investigation is ongoing and we will have no further comment until that investigation is complete,” he said.
Paterson Councilwoman Lalisa Mimms told the New Jersey Globe that she saw the video.
“I’m not sure what was in the bags,” Mimms said. “Postal supervisors went to the location. They knew who the mail carrier as.”
The undelivered mail is the latest in an emerging saga regarding mail delivery in Paterson, the third-largest city in New Jersey.
The Globe reported on Tuesday that two ballots cast in the Paterson 2nd Ward city council race were not counted after the post office took 10 and 21 days, respectively, to deliver them to the Passaic County Board of Elections that was 3.8 miles away from mailbox.
Both ballots were postmarked May 12 – Election Day in Paterson this year. Both voters, a husband and wife, said they voted for Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman.
Akhtaruzzaman currently trails incumbent Shahin Khalique by just one vote.
State and federal law enforcement are investigating the Paterson election after nearly 900 ballots appear to have been harvested and mailed from three separate mailboxes in the all vote-by-mail election.
“It’s a very serious situation,” Mimms said. “I know residents who have stated that they have been questioned.”
Three city council races are in court amidst allegations of voter fraud in the city.
There have been reports from several municipalities about vote-by-mail ballots delivered to apartment buildings in urban areas being left on the lobby floor and not placed in individual mailboxes.
Election officials have reported that thousands of ballots for the May 12 elections arrived were delivered in the weeks following Election Day, including ballots postmarked on May 12 or before that were not delivered in time to be counted.
This story was updated at 3:25 PM with comment from Smith and at 5:36 PM with comment from Flood.