My experience in voting with an absentee ballot in New Jersey in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, as well as the 2017 gubernatorial election, alerted my attention to flaws in the system. As an active voter, these experiences have left me to wonder if absentee voting is worth it. I am thankful that my home state of New Jersey has an absentee ballot system that allows me to vote as a New Jerseyite even though I go to school in Virginia. Although New Jersey’s absentee ballot rules are arguably less stringent than other states, I learned the hard way that absentee voting can be difficult.
All states have different requirements in regard to absentee voting, if they offer it at all. The New Jersey Vote By Mail requirements allow any registered New Jersey voter to apply for an absentee ballot. This is less restrictive than states like Virginia, where I am currently living while in school. Virginia places restrictions on who may qualify to vote absentee, but when comparing the categories that trigger use of an absentee ballot, it does not seem hard to qualify. In states that allow absentee voting, in general, a person must fill out a form requesting an absentee ballot and either return it in person or provide postage and mail it back to the local Election Office. After this, a voter receives a ballot back in the mail, must provide postage, and then mail the ballot back to the local Election Office by the deadline.
The 2012 election was the first in which I was eligible to vote, and I was excited to participate. I requested to vote absentee because I was away from home as a student at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. Although still living in New Jersey at the time, I was registered in Warren County, and therefore would not be able to vote in person at school, as it is in Essex County. Although the absentee ballot process already requires planning to ensure deadlines are met, New Jersey absentee voters faced an additional burden in 2012 due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy.