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Dumped mail, including ballots, leads to arrest of New Jersey carrier

Elise Young
Bloomberg

A U.S. Postal Service employee in New Jersey faces criminal charges after authorities discovered 99 blank general election ballots discarded alongside hundreds of other pieces of mail. Prosecutors said the incident didn’t appear to be politically motivated.

The ballots, plus 276 campaign flyers, are on their way to their intended recipients in West Orange, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced. In all, 1,875 pieces of mail, recovered from commercial trash bins in West Orange and North Arlington, are being delivered to Orange and West Orange homes, Carpenito said in a news release.

Justice Department U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito holds up a face mask as he speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 9, 2020.

The state is automatically mailing ballots to all registered voters to return in person, by U.S. mail or by dropbox. President Donald Trump’s campaign, making unsubstantiated claims about widespread vote-by-mail fraud, has filed lawsuits in at least seven states, including New Jersey, to upend a workaround put into effect to slow the novel coronavirus’ spread.

The Nov. 3 general election in New Jersey includes races for the U.S. presidency, a U.S. Senate seat, all 12 House of Representatives seats, plus some local races.U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, in a Sept. 17 conference call with the National Association of Secretaries of State election committee, said delivering ballots “is the organization’s top priority between now and Election Day,” according to a postal service news release.

In the New Jersey case, Nicholas Beauchene, 26, of Kearny was charged with one count of delaying, hiding or detaining mail and one count of obstructing it. Beauchene resigned from the post office on Wednesday morning, U.S. Assistant Attorney Sara Merin told U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor in federal court in Newark in a proceeding broadcast via computer to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“The evidence in this case is very strong and includes a post-arrest statement in which Mr. Beauchene admitted to dumping the mail, although there are no indications that there was any political motive involved in what he did,” Merin said.

Pending his next court appearance, Beauchene was released to the custody of a brother on $25,000 unsecured bond, ordered to relinquish his passport and limit travel to within New Jersey, and undergo substance-abuse and mental-health evaluations.

In a separate ballot glitch, almost 25% of Teaneck’s 28,000 registered voters were advised Wednesday that their mail-in forms contained incorrect congressional candidates. Replacements, marked “correct ballot,” will be sent “as soon as possible,” according to a notice posted on bergencountyclerk.org.

County officials attributed the mix-up to a vendor’s misprint.

“We fully understand the impact of this error and are doing all we can to not only fix this, but also make sure it never happens again,” the notice stated.