NJ votes by mail again in Nov. 3 general election

Gov. Phil Murphy ordered 6.2 million New Jersey ballots, featuring Trump versus Biden, Booker against Mehta, all dozen congressional contests and a question on recreational marijuana must be mailed out to voters statewide by Oct. 5.

It’s a repeat of Jersey’s pandemic-driven vote-by-mail hybrid primary in July that reserved polling places mainly for the disabled and provisional voters.

“Results here and across our nation showed that making it easier to vote does not favor any one political party, but it does favor democracy. Ensuring that every voter has the ability to securely cast their ballot, while protecting public health, is our paramount concern. The recent primary election gave us the opportunity to see what worked and where we could make improvements to this kind of election,” Murphy said.

Murphy said, each county must open at least half of all polling places and voters will be allowed to submit their completed mail-in ballots there. The state will provide more ballot drop boxes. To count, ballots delivered by U.S. mail must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive no later than 8 p.m. a week after Election Day. County clerks cringed.

Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon expects a deluge of complaints. She fears the state will, once again, fail to launch the media blitz needed to properly educate voters.

“One of the things I’m concerned about happening is that voters are going to be surprised, and voters are going to be very concerned about the process,” she said.

Hanlon’s also confronting an avalanche of 440,000 paper ballots, plus envelopes and inserts. She will probably turn to an outside mail house for help. So will Mercer County’s Paula Sollami-Covello. She’s worried about the U.S. mail meeting deadlines.

“We are concerned because we rely on the post office and the mail to make vote-by-mail happen. And without it working properly or quickly it’s going to impact our ability to run the election in a smooth manner,” Sollami-Covello said.

That’s because the U.S. Postal Service currently faces a crippling assault from President Donald Trump, who’s blocked an extra $3.5 billion in funding over largely unsubstantiated claims that mail-in voting is plagued by election fraud.

“Universal mail-ins that are just sent all over the place, where people can grab them, and grabs stacks of them and sign them and do whatever you want, that’s the thing we’re against,” Trump said at a news conference Friday.

Republican opposition to vote by mail isn’t confined to the president. Freeholder boards in Ocean, Monmouth and Morris Counties have all passed non-binding resolutions turning thumbs down on a vote-by-mail election. They want a COVID-safe in-person voting option.

“There’s been voter fraud. We had the truck, in Morris Plains that went on fire and burned up the ballots, and people’s confusion, so I think the real key is let people choose,” said Morris County Freeholder Director Deborah Smith.

Republican Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi calls Murphy’s Executive Order more politically than pandemic-driven.

“I believe he’s doing this strictly as the co-chair of the DNC. I don’t believe this is tied to data determining dates or any other of the catchphrases that he loves to put forth in his daily pressers. And I think it is going to result in voter suppression,” Schepisi said.

Analysts say vote by mail does favor a particular party: the one with the most registered voters.

“So in Alabama, vote by mail is going to help Republicans. And in New Jersey where we now have more than one million registered Democrats than registered Republicans in this state, it’s going to probably help Democrats, simply because there’s more of them,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rowan Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship.

Another election in the Year of COVID.