With a week and a half to go before the election, confusion has surfaced about how you are supposed to fill out your mail-in ballot.

On the New Jersey Division of Elections website, voters are told to “completely fill in the oval next to each of your selections in blue or black ink.” On most of the ballots, however, voters are instructed to “use only a pencil or ink pen (black or blue) to mark your ballot.”

So what’s required?

Bob Giles, the director of the state Division of Elections, said voters don’t need to worry about this.

“The preferred method is to use blue or black ink when you’re voting with your ballot. You can use a pencil — it’s allowed, it will be counted but it’s usually preferred blue or black ink," he said.

He said that’s because it’s easier for ballot scanners to read ink.

“We promote the blue or black ink because we don’t want voters to use other color ink like red, for example. The scanners can have trouble reading red ink," he explained.

Giles said the instructions that are printed on the roughly 6 million ballots mailed out to registered voters across the state are the same “for the most part” and most of them say blue or black ink or a pencil is OK but there may be variations in some counties.

He pointed out if you want to drop your ballot off at a secure drop box instead of mailing it, you should do so in the county where you live, not in a different county where you may work or be traveling to because ballots are counted in voter’s home counties.

“Every drop-box says the county on it,” said Giles.

So far more than 2.15 million mail-in ballots have been received by county election boards. Because this election is mostly mail-in, ballot counting will begin on Saturday, a full 10 days before election day, to make sure there’s enough time to count all of them.

He stressed it’s important for everyone to read all of instructions printed on the ballot and follow them closely.

“And when you fill in the ovals, fill them in completely,” he said. “We want to make sure the scanners read them and that your intent is clear.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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