Trump campaign sues New Jersey over vote-by-mail election

Sen. Mike Testa fired another salvo in New Jersey’s mail-in ballot battle.

“This is wrong. This is an overstep of Gov. Murphy’s executive power, and the people of New Jersey, of the great state of New Jersey, should be allowed to go to their voting polls and vote in a traditional manner,” Testa said.

He filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order declaring a mostly vote-by-mail election in November due to the pandemic.

The complaint calls Murphy’s executive order a “… direct usurpation of the Legislature’s authority … This brazen power grab was not authorized by state law and violates … the US Constitution.”

Testa filed the suit on behalf of New Jersey’s Republican State Committee and the Trump campaign, which he co-chairs in New Jersey.

“You can wait in hours and hours of lines at your Motor Vehicle Commission, but you can’t go to your voting poll and stand in line to exercise your constitutional right to vote in person,” Testa said. “We’re trying to ensure that every single vote is, in fact, counted.”

“He’s governing by fear. This whole vote by mail scheme is a Democratic misdirection,” said Republican State Committee Chairman Doug Steinhardt. “They want you to look at things that they can blame, like COVID, like the Postal Service, instead of things they can control, like cleaning up voter rolls.”

The lawsuit also argues a vote-by-mail election heightens the potential for fraud in mail-in balloting, creating “…a recipe for disaster … fraudulent and invalid votes dilute the votes of honest citizens.”

Republicans cite an analysis by NJ Spotlight’s Colleen O’Dea that found 10% of votes in New Jersey’s May 12 special elections were tossed out due to irregularities. President Donald Trump has often mentioned the Paterson Third Ward council race so marred by ballot fraud that a Passaic County judge Wednesday ordered a new election.

“In Paterson, New Jersey, they had a massive amount of voter fraud and it’s been a disaster. Paterson’s a total disaster. That’s universal mail in voting,” the president said at a press conference on Aug. 12.

“Problems with the vote by mail system that took place for our primary election, people don’t have faith in it at this time. I believe it’s way too hasty of a move and it’s way too rushed to do during a pandemic for a presidential election,” Testa said.

Murphy in remarks at Wednesday’s coronavirus press briefing vigorously defended his vote by mail order.

“We will defend our rights vigorously and we will not back down, so, as they say, bring it on,” the governor said.

He attacked the Trump campaign for trying to delegitimize the election.

“This goes far beyond attempts at weaponizing the United States Postal Service to disenfranchise voters,” Murphy said. “This is now becoming a full-throated propaganda campaign to undermine the election itself.”

The governor noted that the president himself votes by absentee ballot.

“If vote by mail is good enough for the president, it is good enough for all of us,” Murphy said. “Vote by mail is not new in New Jersey either, and takes on the added importance of protecting both public health and the right to vote during a deadly pandemic that has already taken more than 14,000 lives in our state.”

New Jersey’s Democratic State Committee claims it all stems from the president’s anti-vote by mail crusade.

“It’s basically because it hurts him at the ballot box. That’s it. This is nothing more than another publicity stunt, another game of pandemic politics by the Republicans,” said Saily Avelenda, executive director of the Democratic State Committee.

Now it’s headed to federal court under a tight timeline with fewer than 80 days before the election.