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Voters across the state have already mailed their ballots, taken them to drop boxes or are waiting to vote in person. But many Black and Latino voters are concerned about making mistakes with their ballot and not having their vote counted. They are also worried about unfounded allegations of fraud.
They have conversations with family and friends where fear of voter fraud is spread. Some may see targeted ads and posts on social media that make them question information that is repeatedly fact-checked and labeled as misinformation. Despite their questions or fears, they are making sure to vote.
Sierra Craig, a student at Montclair State University and a resident of Jersey City, is going to the polls on Nov. 3. She said she doesn’t have much faith in mail-in ballots.
“I want to vote in person because I’m able to,” she said. “I think it’s smarter than trying to add to the overwhelm that’s going to happen to the postal service.”
Only provisional ballots will be given to voters at polling locations unless they have a disability that prevents them from voting on a paper ballot.
Making your ballot count
Craig says there has been so much negativity around mail-in voting that she can’t help wondering if her ballot won’t count over a small mistake. She believes that by voting in person she can avoid trouble. But Craig recognizes the importance of voting and is excited to see young adults participate in elections.
Similarly, Sandra Robinson, from Woodbury and a member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, says she would have preferred the election to have been mostly in person, but she took her ballot to a secure ballot drop box.
“Before they put the ballot boxes up, I was not confident at all, especially if we had to trust the postal service to make sure that the ballots got there,” said Robinson.
Despite this, Robinson still has faith in the election process and encourages anyone who can vote to do so.
Even with slowdowns with the U.S. Postal Service, voters are encouraged to take their ballots to a secure drop box in their town. These ballots are collected by election officials and don’t have to be mailed.
Faith in mail-in voting
Ricky Castaneda, the political director for Rutgers-Newark College Democrats, has faith in mail-in voting.
“There’s a lot of misinformation around mail-in voting and most recently the incident over in Paterson being used as a reason to not trust mail-in voting is ridiculous,” said Castaneda. “That was a worst-case scenario type of thing but it’s not something that generally happens.”
In Paterson, two politicians and two other men were charged with voter fraud in the May 12 elections. Some of the charges included an improper collection of mail-in ballots, falsifying public records and ballots. But it’s been proven that extreme voter fraud cases like this are rare and that the investigation in Paterson proved that fraud can be stopped before ballots are counted.
Small voting incidents around the state and country have been used to attack the Postal Service and falsely claim mail-in voting is fraudulent.
But Henal Patel, the director of the Democracy and Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, wants voters to know there are many resources that can help them with their concerns, such as the Institute itself, ACLU New Jersey, League of Women Voters and many others. Voters are encouraged to connect with organizations they like and get the help they may need.
“We are around to answer questions and people will happily answer those questions,” she said. “Advocates are here to help.”
Patel is also hopeful that many changes done in past elections to increase voter engagement will have a positive impact on future elections. Voters can track their ballots, and recently about 83,000 people on parole and probation were able to get their right to vote back. Patel believes these acts and transparency are great for democracy and strengthen voters’ trust in the electoral process.