NJ Election Day 2012: Confusion, Questions, Court & Disenfrachisement

UPDATE: Judge has denied an ACLU-NJ petition to extend access to ballots in NJ for voters trying to use fax and email. ACLU-NJ statement here. And the polls just closed in NJ. – Rosi

Blue Jersey has learned that ACLU-NJ is petitioning a state Superior Court judge to require the state to accept a federal absentee ballot to ease the disenfrachising effect of the post-Sandy email and fax voting that has overwhelmed many election officials today – um, wow – and left some voters confused and feeling shut out. Earlier today Star-Ledger reported ACLU was seeking a court order to allow voters to write their ballot on blank sheets of paper. That was incorrect. It is the federal absentee:

Here is what the federal absentee ballot looks like.

Clearly, ACLU-NJ is seeking an emergency fix to an increasingly problematic voting day for some scads of voters, and election officials. I give them credit. But it’s late in the day, less than 4 hours till polls close, and even the sought-after fix may present problems.

Among problems possibly presented by ACLU’s proposed remedy:

  • Voters must know the name of each office they want to vote in, and supply the name (correctly spelled) of the candidate they want to vote for.

  • Also must write in some semblance of the public referendum questions into blank spaces, if they are to vote on referenda.

  • Straight-ticket voting – all D, or all R – which is how many voters do things, is impossible unless the voter remembers the name of every person running, up and down the ballot. Which would seem to make it likely that:

  • Lots of down-ballot candidates won’t get votes in this system, and possibly also the email/fax system already set up, and provisional ballots. And that would seem to favor incumbents in those races.

  • Federal absentee ballot requires the voter to choose 1 of 4 possible classifications to describe themselves, none of which seem obviously to apply to a storm-displaced person. Yeah. Confusing. The only one that could fit a storm-displaced person? That’s #4, and it reads like this:

    I am a U.S. citizen otherwise granted military/overseas voting rights under State law (check the Voting Assistance Guide).

    All in all, both the Christie administration’s post-Sandy directives and the fix ACLU is suggesting would seem to require a great deal from each voter. And because of that, what we may have here – not necessarily through anyone’s fault – is a 2-tiered situation: Voters where polling places are open, powered and accessible can vote as they always have. Displaced voters, if they vote, may be more likely to hand in incomplete ballots, giving them less say in more localized elections.

    Via PolitickerNJ, Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin reports his office is swamped with email and faxed ballot applications – a processing crisis. Among the reasons? Durkin says the process, set up fairly hastily by Christie administration directive post-hurricane, is meant only for displaced voters (and first responders). But people who shouldn’t are also trying to vote that way. Essex alone is reporting thousands of applications; each requiring about 15 minutes to process, including signature verification.

    Stories like this in Morris County have been appearing, along with a steady stream of calls for help on Twitter and Facebook (samples below the fold) and calls to 1-800-OUR-VOTE, the election protection hotline. New Jersey Democrats also have a voting legal hotline: 732-640-2250.

    Meanwhile, the deadline has been extended to Friday at 8 p.m. for processing emailed and faxed ballots, according to a new directive issued today by LG Guadagno.

    Since Hurricane Sandy, no fewer than 5 directives have been issued by the Christie administration that relate to New Jersey voters and election day processes. Most voters, some still without power, are completely unaware of them. Here is today’s directive extending County Clerks’ deadline to process mail-in ballot applications by

    email or fax to Friday Nov. 9 at noon (deadline to apply for the ballot remains 5pm).

    Jake Stuiver

    Just found someone who normally votes at 220 Adams in the 3-1 district and belongs there but they sent him to the multi, which also turned him away. I’m with him now back at 220 insisting that they let him vote. ANY registered voter that walks into ANY polling place in Hoboken is supposed to be allowed to vote hassle-free. The county workers are not helping with this and you should NOT ALLOW THEM TO DISENFRANCHISE YOU!!! The person who I brought back to 220 was now just miraculously “found” on their list after I personally asserted myself to the poll workers, who know who I am. Disgusting!

    Charlie Kratovil

    Reports of NB [New Brunswick – ed.] voters being denied provisional ballots. If they try this w/ you, refuse to leave. It’s the law, they have to let u vote!

    RE https://twitter.com/AriBerman/…

  • Comments (3)

    1. Hopeful

      I don’t think the amendment on judges’ benefits will be close at all. It’ll surely pass easily.

    2. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

      Vote By Email and Fax Led to Confusion and Potential Disenfranchisement

      New Jersey County Clerks have reported that requests to vote by email or fax have far exceeded their respective offices ability to process those requests by the designated timeline.  The vote by email and fax option, offered by the Christie administration as one of several options for voters affected by Hurricane Sandy, has previously been used by a much smaller pool of voters.  Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Chairman of the Democratic State Committee, released a statement regarding the execution of the vote by email or fax option:

      “It is clear that the option to vote by email or fax has not been a success.  When the Governor’s administration offered alternative voting options due to Hurricane Sandy, it had a duty to ensure that those options would actually work and facilitate voting, rather than discourage or disenfranchise New Jersey voters.  It is unacceptable if even one New Jersey voter who wanted to cast a ballot was disenfranchised due to lack of preparation or forethought by the New Jersey Division of Elections.

      Nevertheless, voting via email or fax was presented as an option, and every effort should continue to be made to accommodate voters who sought to vote this way.

      Once the decision was made to allow voters to use this method to vote on Election Day, there is no reason that the deadline for this type of ballot should be 5 pm when New Jersey’s polls are open through 8 pm.  Vote by mail and fax was supposed to function as a virtual voting booth.  If voters can access a physical polling location until 8 pm, then voters should have been able to vote virtually until the same time.

      However, there still remains time for voters to get to the polls before they close at 8:00 pm and I want to remind any voter who is displaced by the storm to go to the nearest polling site and vote by using a provisional ballot.”

    3. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

      Via politickernj, Sen. Mike Doherty says LG Guadagno’s directive issued today was a violation of both the U.S. and N.J. constitutions.  


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