TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A new way of handling mail-in ballots is causing confusion and concern for some New Jersey voters, including some who have been contacted directly by candidates’ campaigns.
A new New Jersey law stipulates that voters who mailed in a ballot in the 2016 elections are now considered mail-in voters, prompting county clerks to automatically send them ballots by postal mail. However, such voters won’t be allowed to cast a vote in-person at a polling station’s booths. Written provisional ballots may be used on-site instead.
Three weeks ahead of the Nov. 6 election, Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon said some voters have received pre-filled “Vote by Mail” applications that include the voter’s name and address as obtained by campaigns and political action groups.
While the practice of campaigns contacting voters with official-looking documents is nothing new, the change in voter registration could create a big surprise for people showing up to vote at the polls this year.
By requesting the mail-in ballot, voters could end up being removed from on-site voting rolls or face the risk of having their votes thrown out if officials see both methods were potentially used.
“We have received many calls and inquires in our office and have seen many posts on social media by residents concerned about these applications,” said Hanlon. “Some have even questioned whether the County Clerk’s Office sent them.”
Some of these mailings and hand delivered applications are coming from political candidates and political action organizations, not official county clerks, and they are not ballots – rather, they are forms to request a ballot by mail.
“This law sucks,” said state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon to NJ.com. “If they don’t notice the ballot in the mail and they show up to vote in person, they’re going to be told they can’t vote on the machine. It will damage their confidence in the process.”
The change was sponsored by Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro as a move to increase voter turnout.