Voting in person? Here’s what to expect on Election Day 2020 in NJ

Plan on lines and some confusion at the limited polling places open on Tuesday. And wear a mask
Credit: (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
File photo: Voters in Brooklyn, New York, which has early in-person voting, lined up to vote on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. New Jersey residents who will vote in person on Tuesday are expected to have to wait in line.

Yes, polling places in New Jersey will be open on Election Day for people to vote in person or drop off a mail-in ballot. But that is going to be a very different experience than usual and may take more time than in the past.

The first thing that may be different is the polling location. Every municipality will have at least one open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., but larger towns and cities may have fewer than normal. Before heading out, voters should check the mailer they should recently have received from county clerks that lists their polling place, or use the state’s polling place locator.

Because of COVID-19, the reason the election was changed this year, voters will need to follow all health and safety guidelines when entering a polling place, including wearing a mask and keeping 6 feet away from others.

Once at the polls, regardless of whether to just drop off a mail-in ballot or to vote using a provisional ballot, a voter will need to find the appropriate table for his voting district. Depending on the time of day, there may be a wait because there will be fewer polling places open, this is a high-profile election, and there is likely to be confusion among voters who expected to be able to use a machine.

There will be three possible ways for a person to vote. Each county runs its own election and so things will look a little different from county to county, but the Hunterdon County clerk and board of elections administrator created a video that provides a good overview of how the day should go.

You can drop off your mail-in ballot

A voter delivering his mail-in ballot to his polling location on Nov. 3 will have to sign a logbook or certificate and deposit the ballot into a secure ballot sack. Each voter can bring only his own ballot to the polling place to drop off in person.

A voter without a mail-in ballot will vote on a paper, called a provisional ballot. The person will be given both a ballot,  virtually identical to a mail-in ballot, and a form to complete and sign providing identifying information and attesting that he is eligible to vote. After filling out the information, the voter must give back the ballot and form to a poll worker.

Any voter with a disability who needs assistance can get it, by asking the poll worker. The voter will have to attest to the need for an accommodation and the poll worker will have to call the board of elections to ensure that the person did not already vote. The board will mark that the person has voted and he will be able to use a machine.

Michael Harper, clerk of the Hudson County Board of Elections, said it’s hard to know how many people might show up at the polls on Tuesday. He anticipates as many as 30,000 provisional ballots will be cast in his county, but more voters could also bring their mail-in ballots to deliver in person, as well.

“I’m very hopeful that it will be a very quick procedure when they get up there,” he said of dropping off mail-in ballots on Election Day. “Even that process of the provisional voter, I am hopeful will be relatively quick, but it’s never as fast when you’re voting on paper, as opposed to the machine.”

For people who may not have time to spend at the polls Tuesday, there are still other options for using a mail-in ballot: Return it to any drop box, available 24 hours, within your county or bring it to the county board of elections office during its office hours, which may be extended, no later than 8 p.m. Tuesday.