When Superstorm Sandy wiped out a good chunk of the New Jersey shore just prior to the presidential elections last November, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration issued a directive allowing displaced citizens and first responders to vote electronically. Casting an email or fax vote may seem easy enough, but for some citizens and county election offices, the process wasn’t a walk in the park. Technology wasn’t a problem — procedures for voting electronically were already established so that military members and other overseas personnel could receive their ballots and vote by email. But preparing to receive votes from the general populace took around-the-clock efforts from county election staff already battered by the effects of Sandy. While the top of the ballots that contained federal election choices was already completed because of overseas voters, New Jersey counties had to extend those ballots to include the local races for each voter, which took time. But once that was done, sending out ballots and then qualifying people to vote electronically was a big challenge.
Hudson County Clerk Barbara Netchert explained the biggest issue was that when voters heard the word “email” many who were unaffected by the storm ignored the phrase “displaced by Sandy” and tried to vote electronically instead of going to the polls like normal. “We were inundated,” Netchert said. “My people could not … keep up with the amount of requests coming into our mailbox. People were then making the decision to email other people within the system just to make sure that it got here. So we had a lot of duplicates and it was just a daunting task.”
… Corrado explained that right now, a person has to be “committed” to vote by email, because the document must be signed, scanned and returned. For some, it’s easier to just head down to a polling place. But that won’t always be the case, as people who are growing up with technology and information at their fingertips may want the convenience of email voting. For that to happen however, the two county clerks agreed that security would have to be beefed up to ensure the integrity of the process, including the possible inclusion of assigned personal identification numbers.
Netchert admitted that email voting could be harder to secure, but felt times have changed and many young people today are not as concerned about secrecy. They choose to wear their vote on their sleeves, as opposed to older generations that valued secrecy in how they voted. “Times have changed,” Netchert said. “It’s not like that any more. It’s more modern day politics and people just want to know they can cast a vote.”