Displaced victims of the storm-ravaged New Jersey coastline faced a new challenge on Tuesday, as their attempts to vote in person, by email, and by fax failed. New Jersey, at the last minute and prompted by the displacement of residents from superstorm Sandy, was the first state to ever allow electronic voting for a significant portion of its population. Other states have allowed some electronic voting for military members or overseas residents in the past. The effort in New Jersey on Tuesday, however, showed the difficulties of maintaining an orderly and efficient election when phone lines and inboxes are overwhelmed with voter requests. “This is an unprecedented disaster,” Essex County clerk Chris Durkin told the Montclair Times. “People will be disenfranchised because of this unprecedented disaster.”
Election officials around the state were bombarded by requests from voters to vote electronically. Each request took staffers up to 15 minutes to process as they received the email or fax request, checked the voter registration lists for matching identities, and completed paperwork before emailing a ballot to the voter.
In Hudson County, in northern New Jersey, the county clerk had received more than 2,000 requests for email ballots by Tuesday morning, at which point they stopped processing requests altogether.
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Essex County voters were met with busy signals on phone and fax lines, as well as email rejections from full inboxes, as they tried to submit requests to receive electronic ballots, according to the clerk’s office.
“The state didn’t give us enough time to prepare,” Morris County Clerk Joan Bramhall told NJ.com.