Post office comes to the rescue while vote count deadline is extended

The Union County elections team is counting the last ballots from the July 7 primary. Some were postmarked after polls closed.

Elections Administrator Nicole DiRado says the postal service sent a letter explaining some voters throughout the county did indeed mail their ballots by the primary day deadline, but it was July 8 by the time they reached the post office in Elizabeth for the stamp of a postmark. She says they were able to enfranchise 641 voters.

“They admit that these ballots were in their possession on or before Election Day. So the voter did the right thing. The voter did the right thing and the voter should not be disenfranchised for that reason. So absent that letter from the post office, they would have been disenfranchised,” she said.

The postal service letter in essence cured the ballots. A recent court decision allows voters an opportunity to cure or fix flaws that otherwise would invalidate their mail-in or provisional ballots. The Union County Board sent cure letters to more than 1,100 of voters and got back almost 460.

Friday, NJTV News captured the Board of Elections adjudicating, or deciding, whether to approve or disapprove of ballots.

“These 20 provisional ballots were not signed on Election Day. We sent out the cure letter and we did not receive it back by the deadline, which was yesterday at 2 p.m.,” DiRado said.

“It’s really a shame when the voter goes through all the effort to vote the ballot and then does not fill out the certificates so that the vote can count,” said Clara Harelik, Union County Board of Elections secretary and commissioner of registration.

“It should be something on the envelope really large fill out certificate or vote will be denied,” said Union County Board of Elections Commissioner Mary Ellen Harris.

But for some, cute but no cure.

“This ballot here came with a little love note inside the certificate envelope identifying the voter,” DiRado said about a ballot that was disapproved.

After decisions are made, the elections team processes provisional ballots – blue for Republican, pink for Democrat.

One team tears off the certification that identifies the voter. Another team opens the envelopes and takes out the anonymous ballot and prepares it to go in the tabulator.

Union County will meet the July 24 deadline, 17 days after the primary, to count all the votes and have them certified.

“I knew to expect between 80,000 and a 100,000 ballots based on turnout in the last two presidential elections. So I would say we increased our staff at least 50% to get it done,” DiRado said.

Somerset, Camden, and Middlesex Counties report receiving an unprecedented number of mail-in and provisional ballots and have been granted one week extensions to finish counting the votes.

Union County reports a turnout of roughly 25%, that’s more than 82,000 mail-in ballots and almost 11,000 provisional ones.

“Two weeks and three days later, Election Day in Union County is over,”DiRado said.