NJ has 3,000,000 ballots already in: Counting them a ‘marathon’
New Jersey has reached a half-way point for the general election, as the number of mail-in ballots cast reached three million on Thursday, out of the more than 6 million registered voters statewide.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced the update on social media, while state data showing the party affiliation of those submitted ballots lagged a day behind.
Based on data as of Wednesday, more than 1.3 million of the state's submitted ballots were from registered Democrats, over 752,000 were returned by registered Republicans and more than 830,800 were from unaffiliated voters.
Across the state, election workers and volunteers already have hunkered down and begun the process of early counting amid the record volume of ballots, as allowed under one-time legislation passed in September.
“This is definitely a marathon,” Union County Elections Administrator Nicole DiRado said, noting Union County had seen 145,573 ballots returned by Thursday night and would start counting Friday.
In Union County, staff has been opening and prepping ballots since Saturday and “will continue to count as long as we have ballots prepped to count,” DiRado said.
In Somerset County, 23,800 ballots were scanned Wednesday out of roughly 123,000 mail-in ballots already returned, according to county spokesman Nathan Rudy.
That shatters the county's record of just under 15,000 mail-in ballots submitted for the 2016 election, he noted.
In a written statement, Somerset County Clerk Steve Peter said he expected around 180,000 ballots to be cast in total based on ballots sent out, including more than 10,000 new voters registered since Labor Day.
In Ocean County, almost 250,000 mail-in ballots were submitted as of Thursday, according to Ocean County spokesperson Donna Flynn. The status on early canvassing of those ballots was not immediately available.
Monmouth County has begun counting ballots, as more than 200,000 mail-in ballots already had been returned as of Oct. 22 out of the roughly 470,000 sent out to voters, Monmouth County officials announced during a county briefing, who also said that they expected at least another 100,000 ballots to be returned.
Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon said that unlike the electronic results night that voters have become used to for past elections, this year "it will not be as quick."
There will be an upload to the county website as to what has been counted as of election night, but "The tally will continue to be uploaded for many days after, because the ballots will be counted for many days after — and then of course the provisional ballots will begin being counted the following week. So, election results will definitely be delayed due to this different type of process," Hanlon said during the same county press conference.
On Election day, each county will be receiving ballots from its respective drop boxes, in-person at the Board of Elections office and from polling locations — plus provisional paper ballots, to research after all the mail-in ballots have been received.
Among those supporting efforts around the state, 250 New Jersey National Guard members have arrived in 18 counties — including 10 members in Ocean, 15 in Somerset and 14 already at work in Union County, with another two service members waiting on COVID-19 test results per Union County policy.
“Guard members will primarily assist in processing Vote-by-Mail Ballots, which will support the state in ensuring an efficient, fair and safe election process. The support is an extension of the Guard’s active role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey," NJ National Guard spokesperson Lt. Col. Barbara Brown said in a written statement.
Just as during the primary election this past summer, the mobilized troops are wearing civilian clothes and working under the direction of county election officials. Duties include processing ballots and manning and sanitizing polling places on election day.
Rudy said there also have been a good number of Somerset County workers who have come together, to help ensure that the monumental task ahead goes as smoothly and quickly as possible, to work toward a certified ballot count by Nov. 20.
“We will continue to process and count all ballots carefully and accurately and I’m sure it will take us just about every bit of time until certification,” DiRado said.
County officials have stressed that with just days left before the election, voters are better off dropping ballots into a drop box or submitting it in-person, instead of relying on it being mailed in time to be counted.
The deadline for putting a completed mail-in ballot into a secure dropbox within a voter's own home county is 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.
As of Oct. 12, there were more than 320 secure drop boxes stationed around the state. For a complete list, click here.
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