The Queens district attorney is probing alleged voter fraud targeting Assemblyman Ron Kim in the June Democratic primary — a case highlighting vulnerabilities in the use of absentee ballots across New York state, The Post has learned.
The alleged scheme centers on existing election rules, which do not require voters to provide identifying details of people they designate to pick up absentee ballots after applying by mail or online.
The Flushing lawmaker Kim’s attorney, Ali Najmi, penned a letter to US Attorney Breon Peace of the Eastern District of New York, and to Queens DA Melinda Katz on July 27 to “alert” them of at least three cases where registered Democratic voters in the 40th assembly district attest they never requested a mail-in ballot to vote in the June 28 primary.
“Election crimes constitute a serious offense against the integrity of our political system. We believe the facts and circumstances of these egregious criminal acts warrant your agencies’ attention and resources,” Najmi wrote.
Records shared with The Post show a person named “Shing Li” picked up 63 absentee ballots on June 9 before the Board of Election received 16 of their votes in the two days after the June 23 election.
Kim said he was interviewed on Aug. 2 by federal investigators about the matter in his district office and has been in communication with them over the last several weeks.
Republicans have accused Democrats of fostering ballot fraud by sending out pre-filled absentee ballots to potential supporters of Gov. Kathy Hochul, which is legal under state law but questioned by critics, ahead of the Nov. 8 election against GOP nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Suffolk).
“This one-party controlled legislature has enacted laws in the name of making it easier for people to vote that totally jettison any protections that the public had against fraudulent practices in the election process,” said election lawyer John Ciampoli, who has represented clients from both parties.
Chiu supporter James Shing Li denied any involvement with absentee ballot efforts when reached by phone Monday night.
“I had to quit the campaign because I came down with COVID,” he said.
Kim, a five-term incumbent, ended up beating Chiu by roughly 200 votes despite the challenger winning the vast majority of absentee votes. He said electoral victory did not dampen suspicions of possible voting fraud, which led him to alert local and federal authorities.
A Katz spokesperson would not confirm nor deny investigators were probing the matter while a rep for Peace declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Kim plans on introducing new legislation that would require voters to give identifying details about who they want to pick up their ballots in future elections – with BOE officials required to ID the purported proxy who shows up at their door.
“Part of the problem is [legislature] unintentionally created some loopholes when we passed reforms,” Kim said of a side effect of progressive voting rules approved by Albany Democrats in recent years.
The state Legislature is scheduled to next convene in early January.
Election law expert Susan Steiner said Kim’s bill strikes her as a good idea while adding that no evidence has emerged of mass voter fraud in recent state elections despite potential opportunities for abusing absentee rules.
The recent FBI arrest of a Rensselaer County Republican elections commissioner accused of manipulating absentee votes in a local 2021 election underscores the legal dangers for those who do try to illegally manipulate the system in favor of their preferred candidate, she added.
“I don’t think that absentee ballots are particularly vulnerable to fraud. In fact, I think that in almost every case that I know of the people who try something get caught, and it’s always amazing to me that they’re willing to take a risk over so few votes,” Steiner said.