Important: What not to do when voting by mail in New Jersey
New Jersey has allowed vote-by-mail for years – but it’s never been done on the scale of what’s being used during the pandemic-era election of 2020.
Around 400,000 people voted by mail in the 2018 election, the most ever before this year. One in six voters during last year’s general election cast ballots through the mail, the highest share on record until this year.
But in the July primary, nearly 1.3 million votes were mailed in, or 87.5% of the total. About 35,000 of those votes were rejected for various reasons. And for the election now underway, all active registered voters are being mailed ballots – around 6 million in total, including many people who’ve never voted that way before.
It’s not difficult, but there are rules to follow, said Secretary of State Tahesha Way.
“Now we also want voters to be well-informed, and what we want them to do is to make sure when they receive their ballots to read the instructions – carefully,” Way said.
“You have to sign your ballot and do not detach the certificate. Place your signed ballot, that envelope, inside the mailer envelope that will have the prepaid postage,” she said.
And send it with time to spare. Almost 10,000 votes were rejected in the primary because they arrived after the deadline, the single-biggest reason why mail-in votes were counted. (Some may have gotten the wrong postmark on them by the U.S. Postal Service.)
Signatures are another issue. About 7,500 votes were disqualified in the primary because the voter’s signature didn’t match the one on filed in the county election records. Another 3,000 or so were not counted because a person didn’t sign the certificate attached to the interior envelope.
“But the good thing that we also have here in place in New Jersey is that if there is an error in terms of the mismatch or the missing signatures, that voters are advised through their county board of elections and they have up until Nov. 18 to cure,” Way said.
Cure letters – or emails or phone calls – are supposed to be sent within 24 hours to voters whose signatures pose a problem.
“They get notified once there is a rejection by the county board of elections,” Way said.
Way said it’s important that people not remove the certificate attached to the interior envelope, as more than 5,500 people did for the July primary. But it also important to enclose your ballot – which is something nearly 4,000 people forgot for the primary.
People won’t hear from their county election board if there’s not a problem, but they can also register online to track their vote.
“They need to sign up for trackmyballot.nj.gov. It’s the direct site to do that,” Way said. “And they could see from the time they drop their ballot, returned it and when it is received at the county board of elections.”
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.