SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Carolyn Quinn, a Brooklyn-based author and fine art photographer, was surprised this week when she received mail-in ballots addressed to both her parents -- even though her mother died almost a year ago and her father has been dead for two and a half years.
"I live in New York and wanted to report that I was forwarded two mail-in ballots for my dead parents from Union County," Quinn told TAPintoSPF. "My father passed away in May 2018 and my mother in October 2019. I understand that deaths are supposed to be reported to the voter registration department in New Jersey within a month. Well, my parents were gone for almost a full year in one case and for 2 1/2 years in the other. Something smells rotten in Union County!"
Quinn grew up in Roselle and in Scotch Plains, where her late father, Frank Quinn, taught English and Latin at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. Her mother was an elementary school teacher in Elizabeth. Carolyn said she only recently sold her parents' house on Redwood Road.
"It’s obvious incompetence; the Board of Health or whoever is supposed to be reporting it. Someone dropped the ball obviously twice," Quinn said. "Two and a half years – come on! This is really bad. I thought I should sound the alarm."
Responding immediately to TAPinto's request for an interview, Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi said that part of the reason that dead people remain on the voting rolls is that it is not easy to get off of them.
"We have safeguards that help ensure someone is not denied the right to vote," Rajoppi said. "When someone dies, it is the responsibility of the family to get their names to us (in order to have the names removed). Typically, the local Board of Health reports it to the Board of Elections."
"If someone dies outside the state or in a nursing home outside the county, there's no way for us to know to remove them," Rajoppi added. "Another example is if someone moves and does not alert us that they have left, ballots will be mailed to their former address. If the new owner of the home just throws the ballots out, the person will continue to stay on our voting records."
Carolyn Quinn said that she used Higgins and Bonner Echo Lake Funeral Home and that they do all the paperwork for the families.
"They were very good," she said, adding that she had no intention of filling out the ballots on behalf of her deceased parents.
It's a good thing, because the County Clerk said that voting on behalf of dead people is a felony that comes with a fine and possible jail time. The return envelope has a place for signature, which obviously would be forged if someone tried to vote multiple times.
"This is a failsafe," Rajoppi said. "What we ask people to do if someone has died is to write 'This person is deceased' on it. Or you can send a copy of the death certificate to us with a request to remove the person's name from the voter rolls."
Trump distrusts vote-by-mail
President Trump has complained about mail-in ballots for months and claimed that vote-by-mail will lead to "massive electoral fraud and a rigged 2020 Election."
“The big Unsolicited Ballot States should give it up NOW, before it is too late, and ask people to go to the Polling Booths and, like always before, VOTE. Otherwise, MAYHEM!!! Solicited Ballots (absentee) are OK.”
The media has been quick to critique him. Salvador Rizzo of The Washington Post wrote: "More than 100 times this year, President Trump has peddled false claims or imaginary threats about voting by mail." Additionally, the newspaper published an OpEd written by Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a leading Republican elections lawyer, on Sept. 8.
“The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged.”At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged.” - Benjamin Ginsberg
In August, President Trump and New Jersey Republicans filed a lawsuit against Gov. Phil Murphy to try to prevent vote-by-mail in the state. Murphy responded that the president was trying to "deligitimize" the election.
Voters most post-mark their mail-in ballots by Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.
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