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/NJ.com

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. – nj.com

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/NJ.com

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? – nj.com

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 | pressofatlanticcity.com

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 | pressofatlanticcity.com

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

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. – nj.com

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

New Jersey’s first primarily vote-by-mail general election went off without a hitch as counts continue, elections officials say | Katie Kausch and Rebecca Everett | NJ.com

New Jersey’s unprecedented vote-by-mail general election went smooth throughout the state, election officials said, as an army of workers counted millions of ballots before and on Election Day. Compared to some states that didn’t start counting ballots until Election Day, some parts of New Jersey got a head start. Pre-election measures, like allowing early counting of ballots and calling in assistance from the National Guard, alleviated most of the concern surrounding an election that saw mail-in ballots automatically sent to over 6 million registered New Jersey voters. Some of those ballots are still being counted, as many were delivered to polling places or drop boxes on Election Day, and provisional ballots cast at polls will not be counted until Nov. 10, the last day officials can accept ballots postmarked by Nov. 3. In Burlington County, things went so smoothly that the only significant issue was a traffic jam as election workers tried to drive to the county building to drop off bundles of ballots collected from polling locations and drop boxes at the close of polls.

Full Article: N.J.’s first primarily vote-by-mail general election went off without a hitch as counts continue, elections officials say – nj.com

New Jersey: Paper ballots, hand sanitizer and plenty of confusion: Scenes from New Jersey’s polling sites | Kelly Heyboer and Ted Sherman/NJ.com

As New Jersey enters the final hours of voting on the most unusual Election Day in its history, state and local officials say in-person voting has gone smoothly — though not perfectly — at polls across the state. Some polling sites, including several in Newark and Paterson, opened late Tuesday, leading to longer-than-expected lines. At other polling places, some confused voters objected when they were handed provisional ballots instead of casting their votes on the machines they’ve used in the past.And some people trying to drop off their mail-in ballots found the official county collection boxes full. But, for the most part, things have gone smoothly, said Jesse Burns, executive director of the League of Women Voters. “New Jersey voting right advocates are fielding a large number of calls today from voters reporting delayed openings, long lines, lack of proper signage at polling locations, as well as general voting questions,” Burns said. “The majority of issues are being resolved quickly and voters should not be deterred from voting.”

Full Article: Paper ballots, hand sanitizer and plenty of confusion: Scenes from N.J.’s polling sites – nj.com

New Jersey processes mail ballots early as Pennsylvania fights about it | lison Steele/Philadelphia Inquirer

Just days before Election Day, New Jersey’s voter turnout has hit 80% of the state’s total number of ballots cast in 2016, state officials said Friday. And unlike next door in Pennsylvania, many of those 3.1 million votes are already being counted.After Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order in August to make New Jersey’s election a mostly mail-in event by mailing ballots to most voters, he signed a bill allowing counties to open and process ballots up to 10 days early. The law, specific to this year’s election, prohibits elections officials from collecting tallies of the results or releasing information before the polls close. New Jersey officials believe the measure will minimize delays in getting conclusive election results — an ongoing concern across the river in Pennsylvania, where Republicans have turned away pleas by local elections administrators from across the state to allow what’s known as “pre-canvassing” of mail. Pennsylvania’s law prohibiting counties from processing ballots before 7 a.m. on Election Day means that election night results will only reflect a fraction of the mail vote — potentially leaving the results unclear for days. Several counties won’t start counting mail ballots until the next day.

Full Article: New Jersey processes mail ballots early as Pennsylvania fights about it

New Jersey Election Officials Scramble on First Mostly Mail-In Vote | Joseph De Avila/Wall Street Journal

New Jersey’s election system will be tested in the coming weeks as most voters will be casting their ballots for the presidential election by mail or dropping them off for the first time in the state’s history.The state is one of four in the U.S. that this year opted to automatically mail ballots to voters to minimize in-person voting to limit the spread of the coronavirus. A handful of other states, including Utah and Oregon, already take the approach for every election.Local election officials have begun delivering nearly six million ballots statewide to active registered voters, the most ever mailed in the state. More than 1.25 million ballots had been returned as of Thursday, according to the New Jersey Secretary of State’s office, or 32% of the total number who voted in the 2016 presidential election.

New Jersey: Trump keeps touting New Jersey fraud case to attack mail voting. Local leaders say he’s not telling the whole story. | Rosalind S. Helderman/The Washington Post

Five days before the citizens of Paterson, N.J., selected new members of their city council in May, a postal employee in a neighboring town spotted something suspicious in a local post office: 347 mail-in ballots, bundled together. The discovery kicked off weeks of tumult in New Jersey’s third-largest city, a densely populated and diverse community. Four men, including a city councilman, have been charged with fraud. Amid the controversy, the county election board disqualified 19 percent of ballots cast in the race. The episode probably would have remained a local dust-up but for the sudden interest of President Trump, who has spent the past several months attacking voting by mail as a practice he says is susceptible to massive fraud. In recent weeks, he has seized on the situation in Paterson as the prime exhibit in the case he is making about why the November election will be “rigged,” as he has repeatedly put it. In a tweet Sunday afternoon in which he misspelled the name of the city, he wrote, “The 2020 Election will be totally rigged if Mail-In Voting is allowed to take place, & everyone knows it. So much time is taken talking about foreign influence, but the same people won’t even discuss Mail-In election corruption. Look at Patterson, N.J. 20% of vote was corrupted!”

New Jersey: That’s a fold, not a vote! 1,200 Atlantic County ballots misread by scanner | Michelle Brunetti/Press of Atlantic City

About 1,200 Democratic ballots have been incorrectly read by a scanning machine, the Atlantic County Board of Elections reported Thursday afternoon, and were expected to be recounted by Friday morning. The problem is not likely to affect results in a primary election in which an estimated 45,000 ballots have been received and about 28,000 have been counted as of 2 p.m. Thursday, according to the board. “Board staff discovered a great many overvotes, which means that someone voted for two people for the same office, in situations where they were only allowed to vote for one,” Board Chair Lynn Caterson said. An investigation found that folds on some ballots hit voting bubbles on the “write-in” line in such a way that it caused the scanning machine to inaccurately read them as filled in by the voter.

New Jersey: State Takes Steps to Protect Primary’s Vote-by-Mail Ballots | Alexa Corse/Wall Street Journal

New Jersey officials sought to tamp down concerns ahead of the state’s primary voting Tuesday, after criminal charges over alleged mail-ballot fraud marred a local election in Paterson, N.J. State officials emphasized that voter fraud is rare and said measures are being taken to protect mail-in ballots. The primary is being conducted mostly by mail and was delayed from its original date of June 2 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Security measures include verifying mail voters’ signatures against voter-registration records, cross-checking lists of mail and in-person voters to ensure no one votes twice, allowing voters to drop off their ballots at their county board of election in case they don’t trust the mail, and encouraging voters to alert officials if they notice anything suspicious, said New Jersey secretary-of-state spokeswoman Alicia D’Alessandro. Several counties also said that they placed their ballot drop-off boxes under security-camera surveillance. The state is voting in the presidential races and in down-ballot contests, including a Democratic primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who switched parties and became a Republican last year. The scrutiny comes after New Jersey’s attorney general announced voting-fraud charges in June against four men—including two winning candidates—over allegations involving mail-in ballots during a nonpartisan May election in Paterson, a solidly Democratic city. Those two candidates are registered Democrats, according to the local county clerk’s office. Several of the charges related to alleged improper collection of mail-in ballots from other voters.

New Jersey: What alleged voter fraud in Paterson, New Jersey tells us about November — and what it doesn’t | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

At some point it becomes blurry whether President Trump is defending a position because he believes it or because he refuses to lose the debate. He has been claiming for four years that American elections are subject to massive, widespread voter fraud, for example, and continues to make those claims despite a complete lack of evidence. Yes, some fraud occurs, but that doesn’t mean that it occurs widely, much less without detection. This is an important distinction, so it’s worth reiterating. It is the case that your car could be stolen. Auto theft exists. There are even local gangs who steal cars regularly and sell them for parts. It is not the case, though, that there exists a national ring of car thieves who operate without detection, purloining and selling millions of cars a year. That auto theft exists does not strengthen the argument that auto theft exists at a scale in which the system of auto ownership is imperiled.

New Jersey: Division of Elections spent $89,000 for one online voter | David Wildstein/New Jersey Globe

New Jersey spent $89,000 to test online voting, but just one voter used the system in the May 12 non-partisan municipal elections. New Jersey Division of Elections director Robert F. Giles awarded the contact, obtained by the New Jersey Globe,  to Seattle-based Democracy Live, Inc. on April 27 to test an electronic ballot delivery system that would allow voters needing special assistance to vote online using their computer or mobile device. The contract was not publicly bid. “This was all very hush-hush,” a county clerk, speaking on the condition of anonymity told Globe.  “They didn’t want this heavily publicized.  They were just testing it and didn’t want people to know about it in case something went wrong.” The contract, which had been in the works, was not finalized until after ballots for the all-VBM May 12 elections had already been printed and mailed. Several election officials told the Globe that Giles instructed them to include an insert with the ballots that included vague language saying that a disabled voter needing assistance should call the county clerk’s office. One election official described the process as an “honor system” that would allow a voter to supply them with an e-mail address to send a link for online voting without any effective verification process. “We were told to just ask for an email address,” the official said.