Top NJ Democrats Say Mail-in Primary ‘Not Executed Well’
The latest calls for a review of New Jersey's upcoming July 7 primary election are from two Democrats, voicing concern for how the state has carried out the mostly mail-in ballot voting.
State Senator Nia Gill, D-Essex County, has outlined a thorough process, noting Gov. Phil Murphy "must appoint an audit committee, conduct an audit, and issue a post-election report which includes the impact of vote-by-mail on senior citizens and minority communities."
"Conducting audits of election results is essential for the integrity of our elections as audits alert the public and election officials to faults or errors in the system," Gill said in a written statement to New Jersey 101.5.
"Voting is the most fundamental right in our democracy. Voters must know that their ballots are received and counted accurately. We cannot wait until our election system fails us in order to act," Gill said.
State Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, agreed with Gill.
In comments first made to New Jersey Globe, Sweeney said he does not think the mainly vote-by-mail primary has been executed well and also said the state performed "horribly" in getting registered voters their ballots in time for July 7.
“It’s unfortunate, it’s unfair that these elections are going to have an asterisk to them because ballots aren’t being counted that people cast,” Sweeney said.
Gill also said an audit committee provides for transparency and public participation because its members are publicly identified and deliberations and recommendations are subject to the state's Open Public Records Act.
Sweeney also said he didn't see why the primaries, delayed from June due to the COVID-19 pandemic, couldn't still be a hybrid of in-person voting and mail-in ballots.
He said “the administration erred on the side of caution, which you can’t blame them," but added the "system didn’t work very well.”
New Jersey Republicans last month asked the state's top federal prosecutor to monitor the July 7 primary over concerns of what they call "disenfranchisement" of voters.
In a letter sent June 22 to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito, state GOP Committee Chairman Doug Steinhardt listed numerous concerns for what he said was Murphy's "switch to an all-mail primary election."
Three days later, the state Attorney General's Office announced election fraud charges against a Paterson councilman, a councilman-elect and two other men stemming from the May special election, which was entirely by mail-in ballots.
According to state data, for the last presidential primary in 2016, just under 1.4 million ballots were cast in New Jersey, a turnout of 26% of eligible voters.
Voters who have completed their mail-in ballots can submit them to the U.S. Postal Service (postage is already included) at any time before July 7.
Voters also can place a sealed ballot in one of their respective county's official drop boxes, or at their respective County Board of Elections through 8 p.m. July 7.
Limited polling locations will remain open on July 7, where only voters with a disability may vote on an ADA voting machine.
Other eligible voters may cast a provisional paper ballot in-person.
Voters may not drop off a Vote By Mail ballot at a polling location.
No person can serve as an authorized messenger or as a bearer for more than three qualified voters in an election. Candidates cannot handle any ballot other than his or her own.
Voters who believe their mail-In ballot was lost, damaged or not yet received may request a duplicate from their respective County Clerk’s Office.