(TNS) — Accusing Gov. Phil Murphy of a “brazen power grab,” President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has asked a federal judge to overturn the state’s plan to send ballots to all 6.2 million registered voters this fall.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court by the Trump campaign, joined by the Republican National Committee and the New Jersey Republican State Committee. Among their lawyers is state Sen. Michael Testa, R-Cumberland, a frequent Murphy critic.
“In the state of New Jersey, where their universal vote-by-mail system has already resulted in fraud and disenfranchisement, Governor Murphy continues to remove safeguards against abuse,” Trump campaign counsel Matt Morgan said.
“With a stroke of his pen, the governor told his people their votes may not count – they may even be stolen – and that’s fine by him.” Murphy has sought to expand mail voting due to the coronavirus pandemic, and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Tuesday said the state will sue the U.S. Postal Service over concerns the Trump administration is purposely crippling the agency ahead of the surge in mail-in ballots. The postmaster general on Tuesday backed off on making changes critics said would hurt mail delivery, but Grewal said the lawsuit would proceed.
Murphy’s vote-by-mail effort is opposed by Trump and other Republicans claiming that more absentee balloting would lead to more vote fraud.
“We said every option was on the table,” state Republican Chairman Doug Steinhardt said. “We picked one. Governor Murphy, we’ll see you in court, again.”
Trump last week said he opposed House Democratic efforts to provide $25 billion to the Postal Service and $3.6 billion to states to help them handle an expected surge of mail ballots. The funds are in the House-passed $3.4 trillion stimulus bill that the president has threatened to veto.
“They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump told the Fox Business Network last Thursday. “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”
Studies have shown vote by mail has not prompted widespread fraud, as Republicans have claimed. A 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found that the rate of voter fraud for mail-in ballots was 0.00004 percent to 0.0009 percent.
And the Washington Post found possible double voting or voting on behalf of dead people in just 372 of 14.6 million ballots cast in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, which send ballots to all registered voters as New Jersey plans to do this fall.
Still, there were cases of voter fraud in Paterson’s municipal elections in May, where 800 ballots were thrown out and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal brought charges against four individuals.
“In New Jersey’s primary election, dead people voted, a mail truck carrying ballots actually caught fire, countless voters saw their ballots rejected, and the Democrat attorney general is prosecuting multiple people for fraud, yet Democrats still want to implement a rushed transition to an all-mail election,” Republican National Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said.
Murphy acknowledged some problems with the July 7 primary, the first election conducted primarily by mail, but said that the system overall worked well and county clerks will have a lot more time to prepare for the general election.
Primary turnout was 26 percent of New Jersey’s registered voters, the same percentage as the presidential primary four years ago. Both recorded the highest percentage turnout since 2008, when 35 percent of New Jersey voters cast ballots.
“We think largely it was a very good result, particularly balancing the sacred right to vote at the center of democracy along with public health and respecting people’s health and the combination of vote-by-mail and in-person,” Murphy said Aug. 10 at his coronavirus press briefing.
He also contended that the fact that the Paterson voter fraud was easily found showed that systems are in place to prevent ballots from being cast illegally.
“I view that data point in Paterson as a positive one,” Murphy said during his coronavirus press briefing Monday. “People tried to mess with the system and they got caught and they’ve been indicted, and that’s the way it should be.”
Trump and other Republicans have cited fear of fraud in fighting efforts across the country by states to send out ballots to all registered voters or count votes postmarked by Election Day but received later.
They’ve been able to be so active because is the first presidential election in almost four decades where the Republican National Committee’s voter activities are not encumbered by court-ordered restrictions stemming from the 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial election.
Those activities had been limited by a court decree after the state GOP was accused of targeting heavily minority communities that tend to support Democratic candidates.
©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.