New Jersey's first-ever mostly mail-in election a monumental undertaking

Anthony Johnson Image
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Early voting underway in NJ
Anthony Johnson reports on how early voting looked different in New Jersey.

BERGEN COUNTY, New Jersey (WABC) -- Early voting is underway in New Jersey ahead of the November 3 general election, which will be conducted mostly by mail and without in-person voting with few exceptions, as President Donald Trump faces former Vice President Joe Biden in a contentious battle that is dividing the nation.

The votes are already being counted, though the tallies won't reveal until election night. It's a monumental undertaking.

"We're taking it one day at a time," Bergen County Board of Elections Chair Jamie Sheehan-Willis said. "Right now, things seem to be running smoothly. If there is an issue, we will address it at that time, and we're confident we will get this done."

It takes a coach like Sheehan-Willis and an army of poll workers, seniors, and college students all part of the counting process run with no partisan bickering.

"The board is made of three Democrats and three Republicans, and we work hand in hand," Bergen Board of Elections Commissioner Richard Miller said. "We work with each other. We don't work against each other."

CLICK HERE for information on how to vote in New Jersey

Some 300,000 ballots have been submitted so far, with many more expected. And the counting machines are up to the task.

"Because it's a two page ballot, we're going to a million sheets of paper," said Mike Dvorak, with Election Systems & Software. "So we've grown roughly tenfold."

Meanwhile, the mail-in votes keep on coming.

"So far, this works," voter Gloria Etta said. "I feel like there's plenty of boxes within the county, all throughout New Jersey, that allows everyone to get out and vote."

Some 600,000 ballots were mailed to Bergen County residents.

Remember, if you go to the polls next Tuesday, you can either drop off a mail-in ballot or fill out a provisional one if the mail-in got lost -- which gets counted last.

Going into the voting booth is only reserved for a few.

"The only people that can vote in the machines in the polling locations are those who are not physically capable of filling out a ballot with a pen," Bergen County Clerk John Hogan said.

Related: Frequently asked questions about voting in New Jersey

The rules are designed to prevent crowds of people gathering inside because of concerns over COVID-19. Still, some voters relish the tactile feeling of pressing a button to record their choice.

"I'm being told that I can't go to my polling place and cast my vote as usual," voter Frank Iagrotteria said. "I'm really not a fan of that particular law that came out."

All active registered voters in New Jersey should have automatically received their ballots in the mail, at the address where the voter is registered.

Ballots can be mailed in if they are postmarked on or before November 3 and received by November 10; dropped in a secure ballot box by 8 p.m. on November 3, delivered in person to the county's Board of Elections Office by 8 p.m. on November 3, or brought to your polling place by 8 p.m. on November 3.

If you haven't received your vote by mail ballot, please contact your county clerk.

In addition to the president, voters will be electing a U.S. senator and their U.S. House representative. New Jersey also has three ballot questions: legalizing recreational marijuana, delaying the legislative redistricting if the Census is delayed, and giving a property tax break for veterans who served during peacetime.


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