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ELEC Can Perform Most Functions Without All Commissioners

9-9-16

There have been warnings this election cycle of rigged elections and voter fraud. But the Brennan Center for Justice that monitors elections says voter fraud is extremely rare and voter impersonation nearly non-existent. And much of that is due to state commissions dedicated to keeping elections free and fair. New Jersey’s Election Law Enforcement Commission — ELEC — is short three of its four commissioners. Can it still do its job? ELEC’s Executive Director is Jeff Brindle. He spoke with NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams.

Williams: Thank you for being with us Mr. Brindle. You say that ELEC is not a paper tiger but how much can the agency do when its board is down by three-quarters?

Brindle: We can do a great deal. We can do most of our functions. The only thing that we cannot do at this point without a full complement of commissioners is a final decision or actually issuing fines to violators of the various acts. However, I do want to say that nothing is going to fall into a deep hole. We are continuing to investigate, we are continuing to prepare these complaints so that when we do get a full complement we’re going to be ready to go and nobody should think that the law is not going to be enforced.

Williams: The ELEC board hasn’t met in five months now. What kind of a backlog has that created?

Brindle: Well, you know, I guess I would say that it would probably be the Valentine’s Day Massacre when we do have a meeting because we’ve accumulated quite a bit of work to be dealt with by the commissioner once we have it.

Williams: I’m sure. Recently on NJTV, a former commissioner told us the fact that the board can’t meet is a betrayal of public trust. Do you agree?

Brindle: Well, you know, it’s an unprecedented situation certainly. But I’ve been around politics in Trenton for long enough to know that certain times there are other issues that come up that take precedence and I think we’re moving in the right direction now. The governor yesterday nominated Eric Jaso to be on the commission and we’ve been in touch with…

Williams: And he would be the second Republican. But the governor is the one who nominates these commissioners, a rule some liken to the fox guarding the hen house, but what is the incentive for the governor or Senate president or any other politician who’s subject to election law to get ELEC up and running at capacity?

Brindle: Well, I think it’s just in the public interest, you know. I mean, we provide disclosures the public can feel confident that if there are individuals out there that violate the campaign finance laws that that is going to be dealt with and there will be fines meted out.

Williams: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy’s already filed an ELEC complaint claiming Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop is using his mayoral campaign funds to fund his prospective run for governor. Is ELEC addressing that complaint?

Brindle: I can’t talk about that generally or any specific complaint, specifically. But generally speaking, our investigative staff continues to investigate complaints.

Williams: I know that you run through hundreds of thousands of documents every year for everyone. And the permanent staff is working on those regardless of whether there are commissioner vacancies, right?

Brindle: Yes. Oh absolutely. And if you can indulge me for a moment, I just would like to credit my staff because it’s not me, it’s really them that is keeping the commission going. And it’s just a dedicated group of public employees.

Williams: All right, thank you for being with us Mr. Brindle.

Brindle: Thank you very much for having me.