|Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced that a campaign manager for a would-be candidate in the 2021 governor’s race is facing election fraud charges after allegedly filing nearly 2,000 bogus petitions in an attempt to get his candidate on the ballot for the Democratic primary.
James Devine, 61, of Lambertville, was charged by summons with one count of third-degree offenses concerning nomination certificates or petitions, one count of third-degree tampering with public records or information and one count of fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records.
“At a moment in our history when American democracy is facing some of its most formidable challenges from false claims about elections and questions about election integrity, my office will not tolerate any sort of fraud that attempts to deceptively and unfairly benefit a candidate or undermine free and fair elections in New Jersey,” said Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin.
“The voters need to have faith that when they go to the polls, the candidates listed on the ballot have gotten there legitimately and that they aren’t being scammed,” said Office of Public Integrity and Accountability Executive Director Thomas Eicher. “Fraudulent acts like this erode faith in our government and the rule of law, and there must be consequences.”
The crimes were allegedly committed on or about April 5, 2021 in a bid to get New Jersey gubernatorial hopeful Lisa McCormick on the ballot for the June 8, 2021 Democratic primary election.
The investigation found Devine emailed the Secretary of State’s Division of Elections roughly 1,948 fraudulent voter certifications in support of a petition for Governor of the State of New Jersey, in an attempt to nominate McCormick for the primary.
The New Jersey Democratic State Committee on April 9, 2021 filed a written challenge to that effort, listing numerous issues with the voter certifications. According to that challenge, at least one voter was dead; every single voter certification used the same fonts and signature style — with not a single voter using an electronic signature that differed from the typed name; one purported voter included a number in his name; and in nearly every instance the same number of extra spaces appeared between the city name and “NJ” in the address line, which the Division of Elections found suspicious and seemed to indicate a computer program had filled out the forms in an identical manner.
Following a hearing, Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey N. Rabin issued a decision on April 13, 2021 removing McCormick from the ballot, citing those irregularities.
Detectives from OPIA subsequently launched an investigation, conducting interviews with multiple individuals whose names appeared on the petitions submitted by Devine, but who said they did not submit a petition or authorize one in support of McCormick’s nomination.
Devine then admitted multiple times to detectives that he uploaded erroneous voter information onto petition forms that were submitted to the Division of Elections on behalf of McCormick’s campaign.
Third-degree crimes can carry a prison sentence of three to five years and a $15,000 fine. Fourth-degree offenses could lead to up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The case is being prosecuted by deputy attorneys general Andrew Wellbrock and Max Lesser, under the supervision of OPIA Corruption Bureau Deputy Chief Heather Hausleben, Chief Peter Lee, OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione and OPIA Executive Director Tom Eicher.
Defense attorney: Melissa Karabulut, Esq.