No, Kim Guadagno, NJ Won’t Stop Your Military Son from Voting
FREEHOLD BOROUGH — The law changing how people vote by mail has proven confusing for county clerks, voters — and even the former lieutenant governor.
On Sunday, Kim Guadagno took to Facebook to vent her concerns about the law, which most notably made anyone who voted by mail in the 2016 general election a mail-in voter permanently.
Voters have the option to opt out in writing to stop voting by mail. Anyone who goes to their polling place in November and is on the rolls as having received a mail-in ballot will not be able to use the machines but will be able to file a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are counted after election officials determine whether the voter is qualified.
In her Facebook post, Guadagno said her son, who is currently serving in the Air Force in Korea, received a mail-in ballot at his New Jersey address. Guadagno said she was concerned that the paper ballot he received in New Jersey would leave him "disenfranchised" and stop him from voting while serving his country.
"So a kid who fights for his country cannot vote because the mail in ballot (he never requested) cancels his email ballot. Really???," she said.
Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon said Kevin Guadagno, and all New Jersey residents serving overseas, are not disenfranchised by the new law and that there is a simple fix. Anyone in a position like Kevin need only reach out to their county clerk to request an email ballot, and that will cancel out the mail-in ballot they may have received at their last address in country, she said.
"All military and overseas voters should proceed as they normally do," Hanlon said. "If they're overseas they may not realize that they had gotten a mail-in ballot and they should still submit their requests so that the county clerks can send their ballots via email if necessary as county clerks always do."
Hanlon said her office sent ballots only to the people they knew had addresses in the United States. Even still, she said questions like Guadagno's have been common this year.
"I think part of the problem was that this law had to be implemented very quickly with little guidance as to how to handle all different types of voters," the elected Republican clerk said. "There wasn't really much in the law about military voters, so there was a lot of back and forth with how to deal with them. What the message needs to be though is that any military voter or overseas voter needs to just do the process that they always do."
Guadagno told the Townsquare News Network she did the post to raise awareness surrounding the confusion about the new law. She said that while people like her son might be aware enough to reach out to their county clerk to get help, not everyone might know to do that. She also said even knowing what they can do isn't always enough.
"My son right now is somewhere over the skies of Alaska fighting in mock war games, and then is on his way back to South Korea. Exactly when was he going to call the clerk's office?" she said.
With the law signed in August, and enacted for the November general election, Hanlon said it definitely put clerks around the state in a bind. The short time frame has not changed their focus of doing whatever they can to help people answer whatever questions they have about the law, she said.
"The law is a total disaster and it causes problems like this. However, no voter should be disenfranchised," Hanlon said.
Three weeks away from Election Day, the law has already caused several unexpected problems. In Monmouth County, rumors circulated on social media that thousands of incorrect mail-in ballots were sent to residents, while the county clerk's office said in reality they received closer to 10 complaints. Hanlon said any complaints directed to her office were promptly addressed to help ensure people's votes were properly counted.
In Atlantic County, some mail-in ballots were sent out with the wrong ZIP code on the return address. Rather than having a return address ZIP code for Mays Landing of 08330, some of the ballots had 08830, the county clerk's office told the Associated Press. Deputy County Clerk Mike Sommers told The Press of Atlantic City that the ballots were all sent to the correct addresses and would be returned to the correct place because the bar codes on the envelopes were correct.
The deadline to register to vote in New Jersey is Oct. 16. The state provides a link for all 21 counties to help people register to vote no matter where they live.
Some information from the Associated Press was used in this report.