CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Federal and state law enforcement officials are now involved in the Cedar Grove Town Council election over five vote-by-mail ballots improperly delivered to the Newark Post Office and brought forth by The Essex County Board of Elections.
Election board officials received a letter from an employee at the Newark Main Post Office, which is open 24 hours, stating that a man entered the Post Office and had several ballots postmarked. The ballots were ultimately rejected because the chain of custody was not followed, and the individual who delivered the ballots has not been officially identified because the matter is under investigation. The investigation involves the U.S. Attorney and Essex County Prosecutor, who are looking into possible mail and voter fraud.
Councilman Harry Kumburis, who lost re-election in Cedar Grove by 33 votes on May 14, knocked on doors after 10 p.m. on election night, allegedly targeting voters who hadn’t returned a requested vote-by-mail ballot.
According to police reports, Kumburis knocked on the door of a residence on Forest Hill Way at around 10:22 p.m. The resident called Cedar Grove police to report that two suspicious men in suits had rung her doorbell. The resident stated the men had a clipboard and knew her name. The individuals were gone when police arrived, but officers identified Kumburis through the video captured by the home's Ring doorbell. Watch the Ring video here.
As of this writing, Kumburis has not responded to TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove's questions about the incident.
“I along with many others in the community are really shocked and outraged about what happened on election night,” said Mayor Joseph Cicala at the council staff meeting on Monday night. “Never in the history of Cedar Grove have we witnessed such allegations of an attempt to thwart the political process . . . I’m compelled to say that there’s no room for this in Cedar Grove. There’s just not.”
Cicala cited Cedar Grove’s solicitation statute, which states that no one should be knocking on doors after 6 p.m. and noted that Kumburis violated that ordinance.
On the heels of last week’s controversy, Senator Kristin Corrado issued a press release today that reads:
“In light of new reports that State law enforcement officials are investigating a number of vote-by-mail ballots cast after polls closed in Tuesday’s Cedar Grove municipal election, District 40 lawmakers Senator Kristin Corrado and Assemblymen Kevin Rooney and Christopher DePhillips today announced that they will introduce new legislation to upgrade penalties and bar anyone from filing official and completed absentee ballots after polls close on Election Day.”
“Anyone who has the audacity to bang on doors at 10:30 p.m. to round up extra votes has no business serving in government. That’s an egregious violation of public trust,” Senator Corrado said. “Until we take corrective action to limit the overreach of these new mail-in-ballot laws, people like Harry Kumburis will continue to exploit the system – and they won’t always be caught on tape. There is no greater threat to our local democracy than a candidate who is so consumed by power that they will do anything to win. Let’s fix this law now, before another election is put in jeopardy.”
“It’s very embarrassing as the mayor of this town to read that because Cedar Grove is now at the forefront of voter fraud allegations that is now passing through both houses of the legislature,” said Cicala.
As the staff meeting continued, Cicala asked Kumburis who he was with when he was knocking on doors after 10 p.m. on election night. Kumburis refused to identify the individual, even after Cicala offered to show him footage that was captured on the resident’s Ring doorbell camera. “I’m not saying nothing. I did nothing wrong,” Kumburis replied when pressed by Cicala.
The results of the election were certified at Monday evening’s Town Council Staff Meeting, where incumbent Councilman Peter Tanella and Joseph Maceri’s victories are now official. They will be sworn in on July 1.
TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.
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