Critics of Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to have a special election Oct. 16 to choose a U.S. senator contend that it will create a lot of unnecessary difficulties for voters and county election officials. By opting not to have the event 20 days later, as part of the general election for state and local offices, they say, Christie has created conditions for a perfect storm: voter turnouts even smaller than the embarrassing numbers in the high 40s that are normal in New Jersey, shortages of equipment and trained personnel, and, finally, contested results. And all that on top of the extra $12 million the decision not to combine the two elections will cost the state. The governor and his circle dismiss these complaints. He had full legal authority to schedule the election when he did, they say, and he did it lawfully and for appropriate reasons. That doesn’t diminish the potential for problems, which are substantial. One factor is what the Somerset County Democrats, in a lawsuit to overturn Christie’s decision, called “a confusing patchwork of registration and voting dates, including the highly irregular placement of an election on a Wednesday.” The lawsuit was rejected last week by the Appellate Division.
Some of that “patchwork” would be unavoidable, the critics concede, even if Christie had merged the special and general elections. Party primaries still would be needed to pick the Republican and Democratic Senate candidates; Christie scheduled these for Aug. 13. But separating the two big elections makes it worse.
… “Voting machines, after each election, are statutorily required to be ‘impounded’ for 15 days in case there are questions about the results,” the Somerset group noted. “After the special election, the warehouse personnel will have only five days to prepare the voting machines for the general election, and to transport them to appropriate polling locations,” which must be visited, inspected and certified.
These machines “are hard and time-consuming to move and deliver, and we have no rules for how they should be stored,” added Reed. “It would be efficient to deliver them for the special election and leave them in place for three weeks, but it wouldn’t be safe. Who would know if any were hacked or tampered with?”