Cybersecdn– Federal prosecutors announced charges Thursday against a New Jersey political operative they say orchestrated a mail-in ballot fraud scheme in the 2022 election, casting ballots in the name of people who never actually voted.
Authorities say Craig Callaway paid ballot harvesters to request ballots from election officials, purportedly on behalf of valid voters. Mr. Callaway collected the ballots and the voters never saw them — but they were still cast and counted, indicating that someone fraudulently filled them out and submitted them.
The FBI, which investigated the case, reported on four specific fraudulent ballots but prosecutors said there were “many.”
“Voter fraud at any level chips away at the faith people have in our system,” said James E. Dennehy, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Newark. “We’re unable as American citizens to hold our government accountable if our votes are compromised.”
The case goes to the heart of complaints about mail-in voting raised in recent years by many conservatives, including former President Donald Trump: When ballots leave the control of election officials, the chance for mischief increases exponentially.
In New Jersey, voters are allowed to designate “messengers” who are authorized to submit a mail-in ballot application for them, then deliver the ballot to them. New Jersey also allows a “bearer” to then take the ballot from the voter and submit it for them.
But authorities say Mr. Callaway paid up to $50 to messengers to collect ballots and give them to him, after which time they were fraudulently cast. Mr. Callaway was charged in federal court in New Jersey with fraudulent procurement, casting, and tabulation of ballots, and aiding and abetting. In New Jersey, Mr. Callaway, a former Atlantic City Council president, is known as a Democratic operative, though in 2022 he also worked for a Republican congressman.
The FBI said Mr. Callaway recruited people in Atlantic City, telling them they’d be paid for a day’s work. In one case highlighted by agents in court documents, they watched as a messenger met up with Mr. Callaway in the county clerk’s parking lot. Mr. Callaway gave the messenger pre-filled applications to submit.
The messenger signed them, claiming to be authorized to get the ballot on behalf of the voters. The messenger then obtained the ballots and brought them back out to Mr. Callaway, the FBI said. The person in whose name the ballot was requested later told authorities they did not vote in the election, but election officials tallied a ballot cast in their name.