2020 Election: How to vote and make it count this year in NJ
Elections in New Jersey this year are shaping up to be, like most of 2020, “unprecedented.”
With the pandemic wearing on, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an Executive Order that every registered voter will receive a mail-in ballot starting the week of Oct. 5.
Polling places will be open on Nov. 3 for the General Election, but other than those in need of ADA-accessible machines, voters will be casting only paper provisional ballots there.
Below are a list of frequently asked questions about the unique and polarizing approach to this year's General Election.
Can I still register to vote this November?
For residents looking to become registered voters for the general election, the registration deadline, whether in-person or by mail, is Tuesday, Oct. 13.
To register in New Jersey you must:
- Be a citizen of the United States
- Be at least 17 years old (but wait until turning 18 to vote)
- Be a resident of the state and county you're voting in 30 days before the election
Can those convicted of a crime in NJ still vote?
Yes, a law signed in December by Gov. Phil Murphy restored voting rights to convicts who are out of prison on parole or probation. The measure — which initially restored voting rights to roughly 80,000 convicts — has been in effect since March.
What if I didn't get a ballot by mail?
If a mail-in ballot has not arrived after being sent out statewide the week of Oct. 5, voters can call 1-877-NJ-VOTER (1-877-658-6837) or their County Board of Elections.
How can I find out who is running for office in my community?
Closer to the election, the state and county election websites offer links to the full list. In addition to electoral offices, New Jersey has three public questions on the 2020 ballot.
For details on those questions, click here.
How do I mail back my completed ballot?
All vote-by-mail return envelopes will have prepaid First-Class postage, which means a voter can fill out their ballot according to the directions and put it in a mailbox for pickup.
Can I drop off my mail-in ballot in person?
Yes. The state has announced it will add secure drop boxes around the state to ensure voters can drop their ballots instead of mailing if they prefer. Under an executive order by Gov. Phil Murphy, at least 10 ballot drop boxes are required to be set up in each county.
As of Oct. 12, there are more than 320 secure drop boxes stationed around the state. For a complete list, click here.
In addition, completed mail-in ballots can be dropped off at a resident’s respective County Board of Elections office up to and including on Election Day, Nov. 3.
A voter also may return only the mail-in ballot that they personally completed to their designated polling place, under executive order.
Will polling places still be open on Nov. 3?
There will be a minimum of at least one physical polling location open in each New Jersey municipality under Murphy’s Aug. 14 executive order.
There also will be at least half of polling places in each county to provide New Jersey voters with access to vote by paper provisional ballot, for those in-need of ADA-accessible voting machines, or to drop off completed mail-in ballots.
Polling locations will be required to follow public health standards, including ensuring 6 feet of distance, requiring poll workers to wear face coverings and gloves, frequent sanitization of high-touch areas and providing sanitization materials to all individuals at a polling place.
How do I find my polling place?
Traditionally, you can search via your address on the state elections website. As of September, it remained unclear as to when each county would list which of its polling places would remain open Nov. 3, under the governor’s August executive order.
Will I still be able to vote in person?
Provisional paper ballots will be available for those who wish to cast a ballot in person on Election Day. A board worker will give a voter a paper ballot and an envelope and must provide a place to vote the ballot in secret, according to the NJ Voters’ Bill of Rights.
- Put the voted ballot in the envelope and seal it.
- Sign and complete the “Affirmation Statement” that is attached to the envelope. DO NOT DETACH the Affirmation Statement. *If you do not sign the Affirmation Statement, your ballot will not be counted.
- Give the envelope to the board worker. Watch the board worker put the envelope into the provisional ballot bag, or you may put your ballot into the bag yourself.
- If you spoil your ballot, you have the right to ask a board worker for another ballot.
Will my provisional vote be counted?
All provisional ballots are taken to the County Commissioner of Registration’s office after the close of the polls for verification and counting by the County Board of Election.
After the election, you can call 1-877-NJ-VOTER (1-877-658-6837) to find out if
your ballot was counted. If your ballot was not counted, you can find out why it
Can I use a machine to vote?
Under the governor’s current Executive Order, the only voting by machine will be by those with disabilities, in need of an ADA-accessible machine.
What if I'm disabled?
See above. New Jerseyans with significant disabilities also have a little-known alternate option for casting ballots in this November’s election – accessible vote-by-mail, in which they’re emailed a link to a ballot that they return through the mail.
To use accessible vote-by-mail, people request access to the system from their county clerk. If the request is approved, they get an email with a link to a ballot personalized with the contests and questions for where they live.
Can I “track” my mail-in ballot to confirm it was counted?
Yes. Voters need to set up a personal New Jersey Voter Registration System account on the state elections website, to check the status of a submitted mail-in ballot. Voters also can also call their County Election Officials to track a Mail-In Ballot.
Once a voter account has been set up, voters can see the date a ballot was requested, as well as the request processed date, request status, date the ballot was received and that ballot’s status.
When do I need to return my mail-in ballot by?
All voters are strongly encouraged to vote that ballot as soon as possible and return it so it reaches the Election Officials by the deadline.
Under an executive order by the governor, the deadline has been extended to allow ballots being returned through the U.S. Postal Service with a postmark on or before Nov. 3 to be counted as a valid ballot by the County Clerk, if received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 10.
Ballots without a postmark that are received by the county boards of elections within 48 hours of the closing of polls on Nov. 3 shall be considered valid.
When will my vote be counted?
New Jersey has added a new element to its mainly vote-by-mail approach to the 2020 elections, allowing for completed mail-in ballots to be counted ahead of Election Day.
Amended legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in late August includes allowing ballots to be canvassed starting 10 days before Nov. 3.
Will any of these rules change before election day?
Unclear. There is legislation proposed that would allow for early voting on machines. But even if fast tracked, that law would not go into effect until 2021. The primary sponsor, who spent decades as a county clerk, said if allowed to make the call, it would be possible for counties to roll out voting machines to allow for such early voting this fall.