New Jersey: Elections officials in two counties won’t turn over voting machine tests, suit says | Anthony G. Attrino/

A Bergen County man has filed lawsuits against boards of elections in two New Jersey counties, claiming they have refused his requests to view ballot test reports used to determine the logic and accuracy of voting machines. Yehuda Miller, of Teaneck, filed suit against Bergen and Atlantic counties, claiming in court papers that elections officials have responded to his Open Public Records Act filings, but refused to provide the information he’s requested. “They’re claiming the information is proprietary,” said attorney Walter Luers, who filed a lawsuit on behalf of Miller against the Bergen County Board of Elections. Test decks are used to determine whether voting machines are operating properly, Luers said. Both lawsuits were filed recently in New Jersey Superior Court. In the Bergen County lawsuit, filed on April 17, Miller states he emailed a request under OPRA for copies of ballot test decks used in the 2022 general election for votes cast on election day, mail-in ballots and for early voting. Bergen County elections officials responded test decks are exempt from disclosure under state law because making them public “would jeopardize computer security for future elections,” the suit states.

Full Article: Elections officials in 2 N.J. counties won’t turn over voting machine tests, suit says

New Jersey: Monmouth County recount after ES&S screwup changes results of 2022 election | David Wildstein/New Jersey Globe

A court-ordered recount in Monmouth County after the nation’s largest voting machine manufacturer, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), admitted to a programming error that caused some votes to be double counted, appears to have changed the outcome of one race in the November 2022 general election. In the Ocean Township school board contest, a hand recount of ballots in Ocean Township shows Jeff Weinstein with a four-vote lead, 3,408 to 3,404, against Steve Clayton. After the votes were tallied in November, Clayton had defeated Weinstein, then the incumbent, by 20 votes. Clayton took office last month. Clayton lost 119 votes from his November total, while Weinstein lost 95. Attorney General Matt Platkin has ordered an investigation into the the ES&S system failure. Once the new result is certified, the contest will likely head back to Superior Court Judge David Bauman for instructions on removing Clayton and seating Weinstein.

Full Article: Monmouth recount after ES&S screwup changes results of 2022 election – New Jersey Globe

New Jersey Judge orders recount in Monmouth County after some 2022 votes were double-counted | David Wildstein/New Jersey Globe

A Superior Court judge today ordered a recount of some voting machines in four Monmouth County municipalities after errors with the installation of voting machine software from Election Systems and Software (ES&S) caused some votes to be double counted in the November 2022 general election. That could change the outcome of a school board race in Ocean Township, where Steve Clayton unseated incumbent Jeff Weinstein by 20 votes and was sworn in last month; unofficial tallies now put Weinstein ahead by just one vote. Election officials said that the recount will be held on February 8. In his decision, Judge David Bauman relied on a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that election laws should be interpreted liberally as a reason for recounting and rechecking voting machines in Ocean Township, Belmar, Fair Haven, and Tinton Falls even though the deadline had passed. “The public interest in (the) finality of counting votes and election outcomes, in this instance, has not been shown to be strong enough to warrant strict enforcement of the provisions of (the statutes) … where, as here, the counting error appears to have been derived from a unique confluence of mechanical and human error, and no one on this record opposes the prayers for relief,” Bauman wrote in his ruling.

Full Article: Judge orders recount in Monmouth County after some 2022 votes were double-counted – New Jersey Globe

New Jersey county will seek court-ordered recount after voting machines produced erroneous election results 7 David Wildstein/New Jersey Globe

The Monmouth County Board of Elections are expected to ask a judge to order a recount of an Ocean Township school board race after their voting machine vendor, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), acknowledged on Tuesday that a human programming error caused some votes to be double counted, the New Jersey Globe has learned. Frustration among election officials in Monmouth County from both parties has caused the election board to move forward despite the advice of the New Jersey Attorney General’s office and not recanvass and recertify the November 8 general election, two sources with direct knowledge of the board’s actions have confirmed. … The company, which services a large percentage of U.S. voting machines, sought to downplay the problem. “In Monmouth County, the outcome of one race in the 2022 November General Election – a local, nonpartisan race – was affected due to USB flash media being loaded twice into the results reporting module,” said Katrina Granger, an ES&S spokesperson. “This isolated incident occurred due to a human procedural error. An audit of the system yielded this information.”

Full Article: N.J. county will seek court-ordered recount after voting machines produced erroneous election results – New Jersey Globe

New Jersey: Next Steps for Mercer County Following Voting-Machine Failure | Andrew Appel/Freedom to Tinker

Hand-marked optical-scan paper ballots are the most secure form of voting: with any other method, if the computerized voting machines are hacked, there’s no trustworthy paper trail from which we can determine the true outcome of the election, based on the choices that voters actually indicated.  Even those voting methods that appear to have a paper trail, if it’s a computer that created the paper trail, it’s less trustworthy.  And that’s the case even if the human voters have an opportunity to look at the paper, as I will explain below. Mercer County, NJ uses hand-marked paper ballots in its election-day polling places.  That’s good.  But after the system-wide voting-machine failure in Mercer County, some county officials are thinking of abandoning hand-marked paper ballots, and using Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) in polling places.  That would be a bad idea: BMDs can never be as secure as hand-marked paper ballots.   The use of BMDs can lead to unrecoverable election failures.  In  contrast, Mercer County’s failure was recoverable:  Even though the voting machines failed to work on election day, voters could (and did) hand-mark the same paper ballots that they would have fed into those voting machines, and the Board of Elections could (and did) count those ballots with their high-speed central-count optical scanners.

Full Article: Next Steps for Mercer County Following Voting-Machine Failure – Freedom to Tinker

New Jersey: Why the voting machines failed in Mercer County | Andrew Appel/Freedom to Tinker

On Election Day, November 8, 2022, every voting machine in every polling place in Mercer County, New Jersey failed to work.  Voters in each precinct filled in the ovals in their preprinted optical-scan paper ballots, but the voting machines couldn’t read them.  So voters were instructed to put their ballots into “slot 3” of the voting machines, that is, directly into the ballot box.  The Mercer County Board of Elections collected the ballots at the close of the polls on election night, using their usual chain-of-custody procedures.  Then they counted those ballots using the county’s central-count optical-scan voting machines, which are normally used for mail-in ballots.  This took two or three days.  All the votes got counted – but it’s still an embarrassing screw-up that deserves scrutiny. Between 2002 and 2018, Mercer County used paperless full-face touchscreen voting machines.  That was an untrustworthy technology–if the computer miscounted the votes because of hacking or malfunction, there were no paper ballots that could be recounted, and we’d never know.  So I was glad to see those machines go, and glad to see them replaced by hand-marked optical-scan paper ballots, counted by precinct-count optical scanners.  This is the most securable technology I know of.  And that method of vote-counting is robust, meaning even if the voting machines fail to operate, voters can deposit their ballots in a ballot box for counting later.  That’s how all the votes got counted in the November 22 election. Still, we don’t expect every voting machine in the whole county to fail at once!  So what happened exactly?

Full Article: Why the voting machines failed in Mercer County

New Jersey: All Election Day votes are counted in Mercer County after mishap, but questions remain | Katie Sobko/

All ballots cast in person on Election Day have been counted in Mercer County, officials said this week. But that doesn’t include more than 5,200 provisional, 700 emergency and an unknown number of mail-in ballots that still need to be reviewed to decide a handful of local races. “The Office of the Mercer County Superintendent of Elections will continue to work through this process to ensure that all votes cast are counted,” Nathaniel Walker, the Mercer County superintendent of elections, said in a statement. “We remain committed to ensuring the integrity of our elections.” That announcement came a week after problems scanning ballots in voting machines on Election Day prompted voters to use backup paper ballots and, two days later, election officials won a court order to open voting machines to look for potentially missing ballots. Walker did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the search. “Everything’s been accounted for, and they counted all of the Election Day ballots. They are currently counting provisional ballots and vote-by-mail ballots … and emergency ballots as well,” Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello said. “This is a report that was made to me” by Walker’s office, she added. Sollami-Covello said she wasn’t involved in the court order last week.

Full Article: NJ elections: Mercer County live ballots counted, questions remain

New Jersey: Ballots missing in Mercer County after voting machine problems | David Wildstein/New Jersey Globe

Ballots from four voting districts in Mercer County have gone missing after paper ballots were shuttled between polling locations and the county election board following a complete failure of voting machines in Tuesday’s election. Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried said that the Mercer County Board of Elections contacted the township at 5 PM today to report that ballots from one of Robbinsville’s nine voting districts “had gone missing.” Records also show that three districts in Princeton – all cast at the municipal building – were also not recorded as received by the election board. The missing Robbinsville ballots were cast at the Mercer County Library. “The fundamentals of democracy is that every vote would be counted,” Fried said. “Clearly, this has yet to happen in Robbinsville, as approximately 11% of our residents’ votes have yet to be safely delivered and tallied.” A race for the Robbinsville school board, where 103 votes separate Peter Oehlberg and Christopher Emigholz, could be affected by the lost ballots. So could a Princeton school board contest where 67 votes separate Deborah Bronfeld and Rita Rafalvovsky.

Full Article: Ballots missing in Mercer County after voting machine problems – New Jersey Globe

New Jersey bill to allow for early mail ballot counting fails in Senate | Matt Friedman/Politico

A bill that would allow elections officials to count votes ahead of Election Day failed in the state Senate on Thursday. After a relatively lengthy debate during which a bipartisan group of senators raised concerns about the legislation, Senate President Nick Scutari pulled the measure from the board after its total hung at 20 yes votes to 16 no votes — one vote short of passage. The bill, NJ S856 (22R), would allow county boards of elections to open and count mail-in ballots beginning 10 days before Election Day and for county clerks to tally in-person early votes 24 hours after that voting period ends. Vote counting was slow in some counties in last year’s election. Because of that, high-profile politicians like Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli and Senate President Steve Sweeney took more than a week to concede their races. The bill is similar to a measure that was put in place for only the 2020 election, which was conducted almost entirely by mail-in ballot because of the pandemic. But while there were no reported problems with that law, several senators — including one Democrat — raised concerns about results leaking out and giving certain candidates advantages, even though doing so would be a third-degree crime.

Full Article: Bill to allow for early vote counting fails in New Jersey Senate – POLITICO

New Jersey bills advance to allow early counting of vote-by-mail ballots, increase poll worker pay | Michelle Brunetti Post/Press of Atlantic City

Bills to increase poll worker pay and allow elections officials to begin opening and processing mail-in ballots 10 days before Election Day were passed out of a Senate committee Thursday. Under S856, early votes may begin to be counted 24 hours after the conclusion of the early voting period, and elections officials can begin opening the inner envelopes and canvassing each mail-in ballot 10 days prior to Election Day. The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee passed the bill, with only state Sen. Vince Polistina, R-Atlantic, voting against it. “Rather than allow the potential release of information, why not get more machines and people (to count the votes on Election Day),” Polistina said. “Let’s get the right number of machines and people.” Currently, mail-in ballots cannot begin to be counted until Election Day, and early votes cast during the early voting period can only be counted after the polls close. Disclosure of results prior to the close of polls on the day of the election is a crime of the third degree.

New Jersey: Bill would revive stalled rule requiring state’s voting machines leave paper trail | Nikita Biryukov/New Jersey Monitor

For more than a decade, a New Jersey law requiring the state’s counties to use voting machines that can create a paper record of every vote cast has gone unenforced because of the amount of money it would cost counties. That may soon change. A new bill — sponsored by Sens. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex) and Jim Beach (D-Camden) — would alter the rule by requiring counties to purchase machines that create a paper trail when older machines age out. The bill would allow the New Jersey secretary of state to waive the requirement for machines used in an election before the bill’s effective date, which comes on the first day of the third month following its passage. The proposal would bar the secretary of state from issuing such waivers for machines purchased or leased after that date. Paper records can serve multiple purposes. Besides allowing voters to review their slips to ensure their votes were recorded correctly, they’re also used in election audits and recounts. The old requirement, set to go into effect in January 2009, was never enforced because provisions of the law required it to be suspended until New Jersey received federal funds for statewide machine upgrades or appropriated money for the purpose in the state budget. Those provisions appear to have been put in place to head off an unfavorable ruling from the Council on Local Mandates, which enforces a constitutional requirement that the state government pay for mandates it imposes.

Full Article: Bill would revive stalled rule requiring state’s voting machines leave paper trail – New Jersey Monitor

New Jersey poll workers struggle to connect to the internet, causing delays | Neil Vigdor and Tracey Tully/The New York Times

Election workers in New Jersey encountered problems on Tuesday connecting electronic polling books to the internet, resulting in long lines in some parts of the state as voters tried to cast ballots, including in the race for governor, officials said. The state is using the tablet-like devices for the first time in an election. Known as e-poll books, the devices pull a list of eligible voters for each polling location from a statewide database. They were used at 139 early-voting sites in New Jersey. The e-poll books are used in tandem with electronic voting machines. It was not immediately clear how widespread the connectivity problems were or whether they were caused by technical issues or user error. Some voters and elected officials expressed frustration over the delays, which they said had led some people to leave polling sites without voting. “I woke up to a phone call about it,” Mayor Jason F. Cilento of Dunellen, N.J., said in an interview. Mr. Cilento, a Republican, said he went to the lone polling station in Dunellen, a borough of 7,400 people in Middlesex County, in central New Jersey, where he found 30 to 40 people waiting in line as election workers struggled to get the system online. “They were annoyed, of course,” he said. “Then there were reboots.”

Full Article: Wifi Struggles in New Jersey Contribute to Voting Problems – The New York Times

New Jersey voters faced a new way to sign in. It didn’t always go smoothly for poll workers or those casting ballots. | Ted Sherman/

As New Jersey voters waited in line on Tuesday, they were handed a disposable rubber-tipped stylus to electronically sign their names before casting their ballots. Signing the poll book is an Election Day exercise that in the past involved thick volumes of scrawled signatures tracking one’s participation in Democracy over the years — while serving to verify someone’s identify. But this year, the process was a little different. And that didn’t come without problems. Counties for the first time were using electronic poll books instead of paper ones — a change mandated by the move to early voting in the state. The electronic system, which updates the state voter database in real-time, has a record of all eligible voters for each polling location. It is meant to prevent someone from voting in multiple locations or on different days, officials explained, making possible the offering of early voting with safeguards intended to to flag those trying to vote more than once. But at a number of polling locations, election workers had issues connecting through the internet to the state database, which led to long lines in some places, and voters even being turned away from others.

Full Article: N.J. voters faced a new way to sign in. It didn’t always go smoothly for poll workers or those casting ballots. –

New Jersey: Ocean County Republicans and Democrats fight over voting machines | Erik Larsen/Asbury Park Press

Ocean County will spend $2.75 million on equipment needed to meet the requirements of the state’s new in-person early voting law that goes into effect for the first time in the general election this fall. Between Oct. 23 and Halloween night, the county’s voters will be able to choose among 10 polling places throughout Ocean County — regardless of what town they live in — to cast an early vote in this year’s elections for governor, Legislature, county commission, municipal office, as well as for their local and regional school boards. Of course, voters who value tradition over convenience can still cast their ballot on Election Day itself — which falls on Nov. 2 this year — at their regular local polling place on the county’s existing voting machines, just as they always did before the COVID-19 pandemic. The county Board of Commissioners unanimously authorized a spending ordinance for the new early voting machines at its Wednesday meeting — bonding $2.6 million of the amount — with the money to be reimbursed by the state of New Jersey at a future date. The choice of voting equipment to be purchased has been the subject of some controversy, with county Democrats and Republicans divided on the matter along partisan lines at the otherwise bipartisan Ocean County Board of Elections.

Full Article: Ocean County NJ Republicans and Democrats fight over voting machines

New Jersey county set to ignore advice on voting machines | Jeff Pillets/NJ Spotlight News

Against the best advice of its own technical and ballot security experts, Ocean County this week is expected to award a $2.6 million contract for new voting machines to Toronto-based Dominion Voting Systems. Public documents reviewed by New Jersey Spotlight News show that staff professionals working for the county Board of Elections raised a series of red flags during a public meeting of the board in late June, warning against the Dominion purchase. The experts, who had spent more than a year studying the purchase and evaluating competing brands of voting machines, said the Dominion models would be less secure, harder to use for most voters and more prone to mechanical breakdown. Staffers also said it would be harder to train poll workers on the Dominion system than on their major competitor’s machines. The June meeting ended with a 2-1 vote by election board members in favor of buying machines from Election Systems & Software, the Omaha-based company that has been favored by most New Jersey counties now retooling essential voting hardware.

Full Article: NJ county set to ignore advice on voting machines | NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey Institute for Social Justice wants probe into late-arriving voting machines in Newark | David Wildstein/New Jersey Globe

The failure to deliver 33 voting machines in predominately Black wards of Newark before the polls opened on Tuesday have led 20 voting rights advocacy groups and grass roots organizations to call for a thorough investigation into a delay. The New Jersey Globe first reported on the morning of the primary that machines had been late in arriving and that Essex County Superintendent of Elections Patty Spango was aware of the delays before Election Day. Among the voters effected by the undelivered machines was Ryan Haygood, the president of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. Haygood arrived at his polling place at 7:30 AM – 90 minutes after voting opened – to find out that there were no voting machines. “I was told to return later and not offered a provisional ballot until I proactively requested one,” Haygood said. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have encountered voting obstacles in Newark. Running elections is a massive endeavor, but we must do better.” According to the organizations that signed the letter to Spango, multiple polling places in Newark did not open at 6 AM in the November 2020 general election, “once again forcing voters in the city to accommodate for these issues.” “Voters in much of the rest of Essex County do not encounter these issues, but voters in Newark – the state’s largest city and a majority Black city – regularly do,” the letter said.  “The unfortunate reality is that the election issues in Essex County are disproportionately felt by Black and Brown voters in Newark.”

Full Article: Groups want probe into late-arriving voting machines in Newark – New Jersey Globe

New Jersey among nation’s worst in making sure elections are secure. Why haven’t we fixed that? | Jonathan D. Salant/

After President Donald Trump and his Republican allies singled out Georgia and Arizona in falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, both states recounted their votes and found no significant problems. That’s not so easy to do in New Jersey after each election. It’s one of just six states that do not require a paper trail that allows election officials to check that voting machines were not hacked and the results not tampered with. “New Jersey is increasingly behind the curve here,” said Mark Lindeman, acting co-director of Verified Voting, a national nonprofit election verification organization. While New Jersey could do an audit last year because so many ballots were cast by mail, that was a one-shot deal due to the coronavirus pandemic. Going forward, the Garden State will remain an outlier unless the state comes up with the estimated $60 million to $80 million needed to replace county voting machines. “That’s totally the problem,” said Eileen Kean, a Monmouth County elections commissioner. “It’s really a very, very expensive undertaking.” Voting experts said that a paper trail will do more for election security than all of the voting restrictions being enacted by Republican state legislatures, including both Georgia and Arizona. The new laws focus on voter identification to curb in-person ballot fraud, which studies have shown is virtually non-existent, or making it harder to vote by mail despite an election that Trump administration officials said was the most secure in history even with expanded absentee voting.

Full Article: N.J. among nation’s worst in making sure elections are secure. Why haven’t we fixed that? –

New Jersey early voting to cost millions more than planned for? | Jeff Pillets/NJ Spotlight News

A comprehensive study of the cost of implementing New Jersey’s early voting law shows taxpayers will have to pony up $77 million — this year alone — just to pay for new voting machines and other essential hardware. That is almost four times the amount set aside in this year’s budget to finance the landmark law, and it does not include millions more needed for the hiring and training of poll workers, facility upgrades and a range of other ongoing expenses. “We’re very disappointed that the governor’s budget does not provide anywhere near enough money,” said John Donaddio, executive director of the New Jersey Association of Counties, which carried out the study and based its findings on data from all 21 counties. “We have no indication where the rest will come from.” Donaddio said his group is seeking to delay the start of early voting, set to begin statewide in October, and may also file a complaint with the state Council on Local Mandates. The council has constitutional authority to effectively nullify state laws or regulations it deems “unfunded mandates” on local governments or boards of education. The governor’s office referred questions to the Department of State, which oversees all elections and maintains the statewide voter registration system.

Full Article: Early NJ voting to cost millions more than planned for? | NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey Senate approves early voting, sending measure to Governor’s desk | Nikita Biryukov/New Jersey Globe

Lawmakers in the Senate approved a bill allowing in-person early voting Thursday, sending the measure to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed. The measure, which cleared the chamber in a 28-8 vote, would provide three days of early voting for most primaries, five days of early voting for presidential primaries and nine days of early general election voting. The periods provided by that bill, sponsored by State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick), represent significant reductions from previous versions, which provided for a two-week early voting period but limited the practice to general elections and municipal elections in towns that passed an ordinance to approve early voting. Murphy, long a proponent of early voting, has signaled he would support the bill, even if it fell short of the 30-day period he proposed in July. “Without getting into the specifics of early voting, and I mean this not facetiously — I’ll take anything,” he said last month. With primaries less than three months away, early voting won’t be in place in time for June races, and it’s not clear whether it’ll be ready by November either.

Full Article: Senate approves early voting, sending measure to Murphy’s desk – New Jersey Globe

New Jersey: Already stressed election officials urge caution in rush to early voting | Michelle Brunetti Post/Press of Atlantic City

Election officials are warning that the stress put on them by the state’s first mostly vote-by-mail elections in 2020 has taken a toll on their staffs that will make it more difficult to quickly handle another first for the state — early voting. “Please understand unequivocally that we support early voting and believe in improving New Jersey’s elections,” the executive committee of the New Jersey Association of Election Officials said in a letter sent Tuesday to Tahesha Way, New Jersey’s secretary of state, who oversees elections. “Our growing concern, however, is in the rapid pace of new legislation introduction (and eventual laws) and the limited timeframe to review, recommend amendments and implement the new laws,” said the letter. “It has become a challenge to address our current responsibilities and simultaneously plan for changes in uncertified technology we have not tested in real time.” The Legislature is expected to soon finalize passage of an early-voting bill, and Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign it. It would require in-person early voting by machine be available 10 days ahead of the November general election. A version of the bill has passed both houses, but a final version must be voted on again in the Senate after changes in the Assembly. The earliest that vote could happen is March 25 under the current Legislative calendar.

Full Article: Already stressed NJ election officials urge caution in rush to early voting | Govt-and-politics |

New Jersey Senate passes early voting bill, a more than $30 million state mandate | Michelle Brunetti Post/Press of Atlantic City

The state Senate on Monday passed a bill that would require early voting by machine be available for the first time in New Jersey. If it passes the Assembly and is signed by the governor, the state would join about half in the U.S. to offer it. Voters could have access to machine voting 10 days ahead of the official Election Day, Nov. 2. Counties would need to buy electronic poll books and optical-scan voting machines that read hand-marked paper ballots, or other voting machines that produce a paper trail, according to the bill. Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, whose Assembly State and Local Government committee passed the bill in October, said it would be a mandate funded by the state. “It would be in the neighborhood of the upper $30 millions,” Mazzeo said of the cost statewide. The bill would require each county to set up at least three designated early voting locations, with the number based on population. Atlantic County would need five and Cape May and Cumberland counties would require three. Early voting would be available four days ahead of a nonpresidential primary, six days ahead of a presidential primary and 10 days ahead of a general election, under the bill.

Full Article: Senate passes early voting bill, a more than $30 million state mandate | Latest Headlines |

New Jersey: Historic audit of mail-in election is complete. The results are promising, officials say. | Steve Strunsky/

Mariel Hufnagel said she asked for a recount after losing her bid for Eatontown Borough Council by just 10 votes in November not because she suspected foul play. Rather, the Democratic challenger said it was because the margin was simply too thin to risk letting what could have been a few chance counting errors defy the will of the people, particularly in an unprecedented election conducted almost entirely via mail-in balloting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. As it turned out, the recount only confirmed Hufnagel’s defeat. But she accepted the results, after the accuracy of the initial machine tally of the race’s 6,500 mailed-in paper ballots was largely borne out by a recounting of the ballots by hand. And although she was disappointed, her faith in the electoral process was unshaken. “I believe that our democracy has checks and balances in place, such as a recount, exactly for situations like this,” Hufnagel wrote in an email. “I am sure if the situation was flipped, the Republicans would do the same.” More than 6.2 million paper ballots were sent to registered voters for Nov. 3 races ranging from school board to president, and 4.4 million were returned and counted.

Full Article: Historic audit of N.J. mail-in election is complete. The results are promising, officials say. –

New Jersey experience with 2020 elections, an invaluable teacher for coming contests | Jeff Pillets/NJ Spotlight News

Confronted with a national health emergency that disrupted familiar Election Day traditions, New Jersey voters still managed to turn out in record numbers for 2020’s historic election. “What happened was kind of a miracle when you think about it,” said Ingrid Reed, the former director of the New Jersey Project at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics and a longtime advocate for voting reform. “But just how did we pull it off?  What did we do right in this election and where did we go wrong? If we don’t take a good hard look at the election now we’d be missing a great chance to improve the voting experience for everybody,” she added. Reed,  who has been brainstorming with a broad group of  policy experts and other advocates, said there’s consensus on the need for an independent study on  the 2020 election that would dig deep into state and county voter data and collect the views of frontline workers who basically created the vote-by-mail machinery on the fly. After Gov. Phil Murphy ordered last year’s election be conducted nearly all by mail  as the pandemic emerged, county officials faced a series of tight deadlines and logistical hurdles to make sure all voters received ballots. Those officials suddenly found themselves reviewing thousands of ballot signatures and battling balky state computers that spit out bad addresses and district data for voters.

Full Article: Valuable lessons for NJ from 2020 elections | NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey: Hardware, software bugs derail push for early voting | Jeff Pillets/NJ Spotlight News

Officials across New Jersey agree that 2020’s mostly mail-in election — the biggest and most complex in state history — was also the most successful, as 4.5 million people voted safely in the midst of a public-health crisis. Lawmakers had hoped to build on that success by moving quickly with a plan that would bring early in-person voting to New Jersey as soon as this year’s gubernatorial primary, scheduled for June 8. Early voting already takes place in more than half the states, but for now the bill is stalled. To make early voting happen, New Jersey needs to update its voter registration system. That system is a complex web of computer servers and software linking all 21 counties with agencies in Trenton, including the division of elections, Motor Vehicle Commission and central offices for state courts, corrections and human services. It’s supposed to keep accurate track of registered voters and their addresses. But documents reviewed by New Jersey Spotlight News, as well as interviews with election officials across the state, show that persistent bugs in the state network continue to undermine the voting process and frustrate frontline election workers. Periodic reports generated by KNOWiNK, the St. Louis-based voting-tech startup that receives $1.6 million a year to maintain the state system, list dozens of recurring technical issues that stymied county election workers as they worked to send out mail-in ballots and upload votes.

Full Article: Hardware, software bugs derail NJ push for early voting | NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey: Advocates argue paper ballots are key to secure elections | Genesis Obando/NJ Spotlight News

Stephanie Harris says she started using an absentee ballot after an incident at her polling place in 2004 left her unsure if her vote counted. In the primary election that year, Harris, a farmer in Hopewell, cast her vote in Mercer County. But after she picked her candidates and hit the “cast vote” button, she says that there was not an audible confirmation that verified her vote had been successful. The poll worker recommended to Harris that she try a few more times. Even though there was no sound, she assumed her vote had gone through. But Harris says she never knew if her vote was counted or if the machines had been infected with malware or were just not functioning properly. And with no paper record of that specific ballot, Harris said she could not know for sure. So began Harris’ quest to fortify New Jersey’s voting system, a fight she’s waged in the courts and pressed in the Legislature. Her lawsuits have forced officials to confront evidence that voting machines can be hacked and that paper ballots may be the best method for securing elections. The November elections, due to COVID-19, were the first time Harris saw the paper ballots she had been fighting for finally put into action.

Full Article: Pushing paper ballots for NJ elections | NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey: Historic election prompts calls for voting reforms | Colleen O’Dea/NJ Spotlight News

The 2020 general election in New Jersey will go down in the history books for both the state’s ability to conduct its first mail-in paper ballot vote under extreme circumstances and for the voters who adapted with relatively few mistakes. Despite the success, most officials and many voters do not want to conduct future elections the way New Jersey did this year. At the top of the list for many, with the lessons learned from the 2020 elections serving to inform proposed reforms, is incorporating true early, in-person voting with electronic poll books. And while the number of votes rejected represented 1.4% of all ballots cast, a total of 66,506 ballots were rejected, according to the state Division of Elections, a number many advocates consider to be too large. “As we get ready for the 2021 elections, we need to be doing a deep dive into our entire election infrastructure — not just mail-in voting — to ensure our elections are robust and accessible,” said Jesse Burns, executive director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy proclaimed the general election a success and said officials in his administration are still looking into the details of the voting and how to improve on it during a future election conducted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic or similar crisis. Murphy points most often to allowing early voting in person and adopting electronic poll books. Last August, a Senate committee endorsed one early voting bill (S-99), and two months later an Assembly committee approved a different version (A-4830). Both bills currently are stalled in their respective appropriations committees. Using electronic poll books appears to be the only way the state could conduct the same kind of large-scale mail-in balloting as what occurred this year and still allow for some in-person voting by machine.

Full Article: Lessons learned in New Jersey from 2020 elections? | NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey: Replacing old voting machines will come with big price tag. How big? Who knows? | Jeff Pillets/NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey officials estimate that replacing the state’s aged fleet of voting machines could cost between $60 million and $80 million. Add to that the price tag for new technology that would enable early in-person voting — a 2021 priority for state policymakers — and taxpayers could be looking at a $100 million bill in the next few years just to finance their own votes. That comes to about $22 for every one of the 4.5 million Jerseyans who cast ballots in this year’s general election. But other states that recently took on overhauls of their old voting equipment found that keeping the expense of democracy under control proved tricky, as the cost of employee training, along with maintenance and troubleshooting for the new technology soared. Hidden costs such as licensing fees also hit taxpayers hard. Citizen groups in Georgia, for example, said the actual cost of new voting machines installed last year grew to $82 million more than the $104 million budgeted for the statewide project. In New York, the cost of installing electronic poll books in early voting centers spiraled past initial estimates to a total of more than $175 million, according to a state elections board report that was leaked to the media. Louisiana taxpayers were also hit with a wave of unexpected costs when the price for their new voting system pushed past $100 million.

Full Article: Replacing NJ’s voting machines: Costs, complications | NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey Audit of Flawless Vote Could Change Future Elections | Josh Axelrod/Governing

In most election cycles, after the excitement and crisp chill of Election Day passes, inauguration comes quickly after, without a whole lot of attention paid to the bureaucratic processes in between. Only, 2020 is not like other years. Instead, New Jersey election officials have spent the past few days hunched over tables, parsing through thousands of ballots and ensuring they match up with their recorded totals. All the while, President Donald Trump continues to cast doubt over the results of the election, placing national focus on recounts, certifications and audits. In New Jersey, the auditing process has been mandated for more than a decade, and yet, due to a legislative anomaly, has never truly been carried out before. Now, in a year of many other firsts, the audit law is kicking in due to New Jersey’s vote-by-mail election. And the timing is just right, as election audits have never been a more crucial mechanism of democracy. “We really saw this past election how incredibly critical that’s been,” Penny Venetis, Director of Rutgers University’s International Human Rights Clinic, whose been litigating election security cases in New Jersey for years, told NJ Advance Media. “If we didn’t have these ways to independently count ballots, then there would have been a cloud over votes in Georgia and Wisconsin. We need the ability to do this, especially in such a polarized political environment.”

Full Article: New Jersey Audit of Flawless Vote Could Change Future Elections

New Jersey: Routine vote audit becomes historic this year | Jeff Pillets/NJ Spotlight News

A team of 60 Bergen County election workers gathered in Paramus on Monday to make one more big lift in this year’s mostly mail-in election — an unprecedented exercise that tested the patience of New Jersey voters and vote canvassers alike. Seated at folding tables, the election workers spent most of the day in silent concentration, poring over 10,000 to 12,000 ballots, eyeballing every one in a hand count designed to be one last safety check on the election of 2020. Scenes like the one in Bergen County are playing out across New Jersey this week as county officials complete a state-mandated audit of the record 4.5 million votes cast in the general election. State law requires each county board of election to check a random sample of votes —roughly, about 2% of all ballots submitted. And although the process continues, officials in Bergen and elsewhere say it has thus far revealed no anomalies in the official counts of ballots cast by voters. On the surface, the vote audit is just another obscure administrative ritual that might pass without notice. But this year’s version is truly a bit of history: Experts say this is New Jersey’s first statewide voting audit of its kind in more than a century.

Full Article: Routine vote audit becomes historic in NJ this year | NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey Lawmakers Push For In-Person Early Voting by 2021. County Election Officials Fear It’s Not Doable | Jeff Pillets/TAPinto

Fresh off a record-setting election that upended traditional voting habits, New Jersey lawmakers are pushing ahead on another big change in time for next year’s governor’s race: in-person early voting. But exhausted election workers, still wrapping up this year’s mostly mail-in general election, worry they may be unable to meet another major voting mandate from Trenton. “We all want more people to vote, but we’re going to need more staffing, more time, more cooperation with the state and a better system overall,” said Lynn Caterson, a member of the Atlantic County Board of Elections. “And what about the money?” Senate President Steve Sweeney, in an interview Thursday with NJ Spotlight News, said a new law that would open polling places two weeks early could be passed by year’s end or early in 2021 — in time for the June 8 primary election, when voters will choose candidates for governor. “The point is we want early voting to happen,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester). “We’ve just got to figure out how to fund it.”

Full Article: NJ Lawmakers Push For In-Person Early Voting by 2021. County Election Officials Fear It’s Not Doable – TAPinto