NJ election officials playing catch-up with mail-in ballot problems
Election officials at the county level have been dealing with the massive task of sorting through thousands of mail-in ballots returned as undeliverable.
Cape May County Clerk Rita Fulginiti said with the 2020 election being mostly by mail, instead of sample ballots being sent out, each county has been directed to send postcards to voters who have not yet returned ballots.
The postcards inform them of where their polling place is on Nov. 3 and explains the option of either returning a mail-in ballot in-person or filling out a paper, provisional ballot.
Fulginiti said out of 71,000 ballots initially sent out, 1,800 were returned undeliverable. She said many were sent out at the end of September — but then voter registration continued through Oct. 13, so more ballots were mailed out.
In Monmouth County, there were 482,595 registered voters as of Oct. 1, an increase of 8,369 from the month before.
Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon estimated to News 12 that as of this week, there were “32 trays” holding roughly 9,600 ballots that were still being determined as either undeliverable, or in some cases, voters who updated addresses after the initial ballots initially went out.
While the state's primary election also was almost entirely mail-in ballot in the midst of the pandemic, Fulginiti said "not many people vote in primaries," so these issues are just now coming to light.
Statewide turnout for the July primary election was just 26%, with 1.47 million ballots cast.
As of Oct. 1, there were 6.37 million registered voters in New Jersey, including 120,301 additional voters who had signed up since Sept. 1, according to the state Division of Elections.
According to the Division website, an “inactive” voter is someone whose address has come into question. The site also notes the “main way the counties receive this information is by the sample ballots that are traditionally sent ahead of each election.
Fulginiti said in Cape May County, it has been a "challenge" as they have been working with voters who have had issues — “Whether or not they received a ballot, whether they got it early and discarded it or tore it up.” She added some might have thought they could still vote by machine at the polls.
In Somerset County, Friday was the last day voters who have "misplaced, damaged, not received, or improperly filled out their ballot" can submit a request to have a replacement mailed to them.
As of Monday, roughly 13,000 newly registered or reactivated voters in Somerset County had been mailed a ballot. If not received by Oct. 26, new and reactivated voters were encouraged to request a new ballot in-person at the Somerset County Administration building at 20 Grove St., Somerville.
“Our goal is to ensure every eligible voter has a ballot they can cast in time to be counted in this election, and that includes voters with a toddler that saw the ballot as a coloring book, voters who misplaced their ballot, or those who have a torn envelope,” Somerset County Clerk Steve Peter said.
Due to the possibility of postal service delays, Peter said they are "transitioning to providing ballots in-person only in Somerville.”
Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi said Thursday that her office was still counting returned ballots, and also was in the process of sending out the reminder postcards advising voters of their polling place and also to mail their ballot.