I receive daily phone calls and emails inquiring about the best method of voting. This year’s voter participation may exceed record levels, but at the same time voters’ trust in the process and political parties is very low. You are justified in your outrage that New Jersey’s vote by mail election is unnecessary. People should be able to vote absentee through the mail if, for example, they have health conditions that prevent them from physically going to the polls. However, forcing every registered voter to use an untested system to sort out millions of ballots is problematic.
The greatest challenge is not the privacy and delivery of ballots, but the question of whether citizens will fill out their ballots correctly. Are people appropriately trained? Voting by mail requires a voter to fill out the inner envelope with their information including their signature, place the ballot in the envelope, and properly seal it. Then, they must place that inner envelope in the outer mail envelope with their information and properly seal that, too. Most voters have not seen a voting machine in four years, and for many this will be the first time in their life that they’ve handled a paper ballot.
But even if you are upset, you still must vote – and you should vote early.
If you want to protest the process by showing up to a polling place on election day, that’s a mistake. Here’s why:
First, very few polling places will be open, and the process could be a hassle. Do not assume your normal location will be one of them. You might have to drive farther than usual. When you arrive, you may have to stand in a long line with other people who are there to hand in the ballot they were mailed. These last-minute ballots will be heaped into containers and boxes much less secure than the safe drop boxes currently located throughout your county.
Second, you will not be able to vote by machine, unless you have a documented disability that makes you unable to complete a paper ballot. If you show up to a polling place on election day to vote, you will be forced to complete a provisional paper ballot that will not be counted until weeks after Election Day. Make sure your vote is counted upfront!
Here is what you need to do:
- Vote early – don’t wait.
- Bring your ballot to your county Board of Elections office or drop it in a secure drop box that is emptied each day by a representative from the Republican and Democrat party together. Putting your ballot in the mail is your last option.
- Sign up to track your ballot online to make sure your ballot was received.
Let’s win back New Jersey!
Director of Advocacy