Protest to demand in-person voting planned in Middletown on Sunday
An event planned this weekend at a park in Monmouth County could draw thousands of registered voters upset with a lack of a standard in-person option for casting ballots on Election Day in November.
The protest billed as "Make your Vote Count" is set for Sunday 10 a.m. at Bodman Park in Middletown. The location along Market Street is next to the Navesink River and there now is word of boaters also turning out in support, according to one of the event's organizers, Carol Love.
An affiliated online petition, titled "NJ Gov. Murphy - Open ALL Poll Locations to Cast Votes using Voting Machines, No Mail-Ins" has attracted more than 20,000 signatures in roughly a week, Love said.
The Facebook group “Demand Regular in Person Voting Option New Jersey” — which had more than 6,200 members as of Wednesday — has seen many voicing plans to attend Sunday, according to one of its spokesmen, Bonnie Gabizon.
Another spokesman for the group, Mike Amico, said they were approaching the event not as one with partisan ties but about New Jersey residents having the right to cast ballots in-person at polling places that are not provisional, as the spread of coronavirus has dropped statewide.
“The demand for a fair election process is one that everyone should be behind, regardless of who they’re voting for,” Gabizon said.
A different Facebook group, "Protest Against NJ Governor Murphy," billed as co-host of Sunday's event has taken a more partisan political stance, as its page banner reads "Trump 2020." That group — with roughly 1,500 members as of Wednesday — had an online description calling Gov. Phil Murphy "Satan's offspring" and a line that read "Sadly America the superior nation of all nations has been usurped by CHINESE MONEY and Anarchists---."
“If the virus was as bad as it was when we were getting three or four thousand a day, then I would absolutely be more skeptical about it, but things are opening up,” Amico said, noting he’s back to his routine of work, shopping and being around other people, who are taking “all the precautionary measures that we have to, to keep ourselves safe.”
Gabizon noted the pandemic does not fit the standard reason for casting a provisional ballot in elections prior, which typically has been over a question of voter eligibility.
She said concerns voiced by some of the thousands in the group include “verification and counting” of the paper provisional ballots are not what’s typical and it could be weeks or months before election winners can be confirmed in NJ.
Under Murphy’s executive order, the only in-person voting other than voters with disabilities using ADA-accessible machines will be casting provisional ballots.
Gabizon said the “long process” of filling out paper provisional ballots could lead to a situation similar to the delays plaguing Motor Vehicle Commission offices since they reopened, with “thousands of people, waiting on line for long periods of time; so it seems counterproductive to keeping people safe.”
“As long as we have our masks on and our hand sanitizer and we can socially distance at the polls, there’s no reason why they can’t be open and we can proceed to vote as we always have,” Amico said.
Whether masks would be worn by many at Sunday's event remained to be seen, as event details shared online made no mention of face coverings.
Anti-mask memes, including one calling a person who wears one amid the public health crisis a "maskhole," were among several shared to the page for the group "Protest Against NJ GOVERNOR Murphy."
Amico said he’s among a few hundred people from South Jersey planning to attend Sunday's event.
Gabizon said it appears that nearly every county of the state is represented in their online group, seeing that this is a real issue and seeking the right to vote on a machine “as they’ve always done.”