Stop worrying: Your ballot was probably counted despite what NJ website says
TRENTON — New Jersey's mail-in ballot tracking website is leaving some voters confused and worried whether their ballot has been counted.
The "Track My Ballot" feature on the state Division of Election's site will not tell users whether their ballot has been accepted until after counties have certified all ballots no earlier than Nov. 20.
That means the "ballot status" on a user's Mail-in Ballot History page will continue to display "Received" until next week, when it will be changed to either "Accepted" or "Rejected."
This has led some voters to mistakenly believe that their ballots have not been counted, adding to the growing perception stoked by President Donald Trump that the election results in states that he lost to former Vice President Joe Biden are somehow untrustworthy.
Officials at the Division of Elections say that unless the ballot was submitted on election day or county election workers have reached out to the voter to correct a signature error, their votes were likely counted on or before election day.
Counties on Tuesday began processing the provisional ballots filled out by voters a week earlier on the final day of the election. Provisional ballots were not touched until Tuesday because that was the last day counties could wait for postmarked mail-in ballots that had straggled through the mail.
If a mail-in ballot has a problem, the tracking website will display no indication of that. Instead, county election workers will either send a letter to the voter or call them at the phone number provided when the person registered to vote, if a number was provided at all. Voters have until Nov. 18 to "cure" or correct a ballot.
For voters worried whether their ballots have been accepted, state officials recommend calling the Board of Elections in the county where they live.
State officials are looking to overhaul the ballot-tracking website, which has seen its users grow from several thousand in previous elections to hundreds of thousands in this election as a result of Gov. Phil Murphy's executive orders making this year's primary and presidential election mostly mail-in because of the pandemic. The high-interest presidential race and widespread mail-in voting pushed voter participation in the state to more than 4 million, a record.
Last week after the election, Murphy said he would like to see the state's county-by-county election systems modernized to the point that polling places would have electronic poll books rather than the paper books, which can't be easily updated after they're printed. Electronic voter rolls would eliminate the need for provisional ballots and make it easier for voters to choose between mail-in or in-person voting.
Murphy last year signed a law paving the way for counties to transition to electronic poll books. But doing so, however, would come with significant cost. Electronic poll books are estimated to cost $1,500 to $2,000 a piece and at least one would be needed in every polling site. Overhauling the voting systems has been estimated to cost up to $30 million.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-775-9793 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.