In corrupt New Jersey, the two major political parties fight endlessly for the power to reward themselves, their supporters and the connected people of their choice. They seem to agree only that they alone should always be dividing up the spoils. That’s unfortunate because it takes precedence over good government and the broad, long-term interests of the people of the state. It could be worse, though, and is getting so every year of late.
This doesn’t involve garden variety vote tampering. That seems to be continuing, without significant support in the parties for the simple election management policies and practices that would make it just about impossible. A lawsuit just filed in an Atlantic City election won by six votes claims that 14 ballots in the 2nd Ward race were cast by voters who don’t live there, seven were cast by people whose address is the same as one of the candidates, and nearly 30 voters who received disability assistance in voting didn’t affirm they had a disability. The lawsuit was filed too late, due to a late recount, to change the fall ballot, but frankly state government doesn’t take vote tampering seriously enough to actually investigate it, let alone correct or prevent it.
This year’s election rigging is more fundamental, making it difficult for anyone but Democratic and Republican political bosses to mount a serious campaign.
It began in April when Gov. Phil Murphy, with the help of Democratic lawmakers, ended the historic independence of New Jersey’s Election Law Enforcement Commission. ELEC’s job is to investigate illegal political fundraising. Murphy and his legislators enacted a law — opposed by many good-government groups, including the League of Women Voters, New Jersey Policy Perspective and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice — giving Murphy the power to replace all ELEC officials with partisans of his choosing. All three existing ELEC commissioners resigned in protest.