On November 3rd, the Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey issued a directive, well covered in the media, permitting storm-displaced New Jersey voters to vote by e-mail. The voter is to call or e-mail the county clerk to request an absentee ballot by e-mail or fax, then the voter returns the ballot by e-mail or fax:
“The voter must transmit the signed waiver of secrecy along with the voted ballot by fax or e-mail for receipt by the applicable county board of election no later than November 6, 2012 at 8 p.m.”
We see already one problem: The loss of the secret ballot. At many times in the 20th century, NJ political machines put such intense pressure on voters that the secret ballot was an important protection. In 2012 it’s in the news that some corporations are pressuring their employees to vote in certain ways. The secret ballot is still critical to the functioning of democracy. But there’s a much bigger problem with the Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s directive: If voters and county clerks follow her instructions, their votes will be invalid.
Her directive reads, “Any voter who has been displaced…is hereby designated an `overseas voter’ for the purposes of the Overseas Residents Absentee Voting Law, N.J.S.A. 19:59-1 et seq.” But the New Jersey Statute (at 19:59-15.4) requires an additional step that Lt. Gov. Guadagno omitted from her directive:
“N.J.S.A. 19:59-15.4(a): Immediately after a copy of the voted overseas ballot or federal write-in absentee ballot has been transmitted by electronic means to the appropriate county board of elections, as permitted pursuant to section 3 of P.L.1995, c.195 (C.19:59-14), the overseas voter shall place the original voted ballot in a secure envelope, together with a certificate substantially the same as provided for in section 9 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-9), and send the documents by air mail to the appropriate county board of elections.“
“19:59-15.4(d): Prior to certification of the results of the election, the county board shall:
(1) compare the information on the copy transmitted by electronic means of each voted ballot with the same on the original voted ballot sent by air mail by the voter who transmitted to the county board a copy of the voted ballot by electronic means, and the signature on the statement received by electronic means with the signature on the certificate received by air mail; and
(2) ascertain whether an original voted ballot has been received for each copy of a voted ballot received by electronic means and counted.”
Then things really get murky: The statute doesn’t say what happens if the hardcopy is not received, except that the county superintendent of elections must investigate. It’s not difficult to imagine that these ballots will end up in court.
I urge the Lieutenant Governor to issue a revised order, clarifying that displaced voters must immediately follow up by mailing hardcopy identical to their e-mailed ballot–or risk having their votes thrown out. That hardcopy-backup requirement is there for a reason: E-mail voting (without a paper backup) is the most insecure form of voting there is. We should not use it, except in extreme emergencies, and even then, only with the statutorily required paper backup.
Full Article: NJ Lt. Governor invites voters to submit invalid ballots.