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Toughen act on messenger votes, lawmakers say

Toughen act on messenger votes, lawmakers say

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TRENTON - Two local lawmakers called on Gov. Jon S. Corzine to conditionally veto the Vote By Mail Act and ask the Legislature to further reduce the number of messenger ballots a person could carry to three.

"Messenger ballots insert a third party in between the vote cast and the vote counted, and this circumstance can jeopardize the integrity of an individual's vote if the law is not stringent or careful enough," wrote Assemblymen Vince Polistina and John Amodeo, both R-Atlantic.

There are currently no limits on the number of messenger ballots a person can deliver. The Vote By Mail Act, which received final legislative approval May 21, would limit people to handling 10 messenger ballots per election.

Messenger ballots, designed for the sick or confined, are hand-delivered to county officials by a bearer. Atlantic City's Callaway political organization has used them with controversial success in boosting preferred candidates into office in Atlantic City and Pleasantville.

But last week, the state Attorney General's Office charged David K. Callaway and LuQuay Q. Zahir with submitting fraudulent ballots in the resort's June 2 mayoral primary on behalf of unsuccessful candidate Marty Small.

State Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, voted out of the Atlantic City mayor's seat in 2001 on the strength of messenger ballots, convinced bill sponsors to include the 10-ballot limit after unsuccessfully pushing for a five-ballot limit.

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