A Hudson, County, New Jersey postal worker admitted on Thursday that he discarded mail that included nearly 100 general election ballots sent to area residents by the Essex County Board of Elections, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, lending credence to fraud concerns raised throughout last year’s voting cycle.
As The Hill further reports, 26-year-old mail carrier Nicholas Beauchene pleaded guilty to a single count of desertion of mails, acknowledging that he tossed out 1,875 individual mail pieces addressed to postal service customers in West Orange and Orange into dumpsters over the course of three days last fall.
It was ultimately discovered that the discarded mail included 99 general election ballots as well as 276 campaign advertisements for Town Council and Board of Education candidates in West Orange. Once retrieved, the mail pieces were returned to the normal delivery stream and taken to their intended destinations.
Beauchene had been arrested over the discarded items last fall and charged with one count of delay, secretion, or detention of mail and one count of obstruction of mail. The former charged carried a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, while the obstruction of mail count had a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
By pleading guilty to one count of desertion of mails, Beauchene faces a maximum term of one year in prison and a fine of $100,000, and his sentencing will occur at a date yet to be determined, as The Hill noted.
At Beauchene’s initial court appearance last fall, assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Merin declared that no evidence existed that the mail carrier’s conduct was politically motivated, and while his defense attorney expressed agreement with that conclusion, there was no further explanation offered.
The 2020 election cycle was noteworthy for the massive influx of mail-in ballots, a system implemented and expanded in many part of the country due to the pandemic and something which made reliable service from the U.S. Postal Service more critical than ever before. That, combined with staffing difficulties, funding woes, and operational reforms at the agency created a perfect storm of doubt about the wisdom of allowing votes to be cast in that way.
Though 99 discarded ballots is a miniscule number when it comes to the total tally of mail-in ballots cast across the country, the episode does bolster concerns about the security and integrity of votes cast in any manner other than in person at a traditional polling place. Then-President Donald Trump warned of the potential for fraud such processes present, asserting last year that ballots were “being sold,” and “dumped into rivers,” adding that the 2020 election would be marked by “fraud like you’ve never seen.”
This guilty plea, taken together with accounts from a number of Postal Service whistleblowers who alleged the backdating and discarding of ballots in a number of key states last year serves to further undermine Americans’ faith in election integrity, something that was already on a regrettable decline.