Gov. Phil Murphy described the lawsuit brought against the state by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign as part of the President’s “full-throated propaganda campaign to undermine the election itself.”
Murphy at a press briefing Aug. 19 said the lawsuit looking to nullify New Jersey’s expansion of vote-by-mall for the Nov. 3 election goes far beyond attempts at weaponizing the United States Postal Service (USPS) to disenfranchise voters and taunted the President to “bring it on.”
“The President’s campaign is putting itself on-record as wanting to delegitimize our November election, instead of working with us to ensure that voters’ rights are upheld along with public health,” said Murphy.
“If vote-by-mail is good enough for the President, it’s good enough for us,” he added.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court on Aug. 18 by the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and the New Jersey Republican State Committee.
The lawsuit claims that the universal vote-by-mail system New Jersey plans to use has already resulted in fraud and disenfranchisement, with Murphy continuing to remove safeguards against abuse.
The state has expanded mail-in voting during the pandemic, holding vote-by-mail elections in May for state races and in July for primary contests. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said he plans to join a lawsuit against the USPS over concerns the Trump administration is purposely working to hamper the agency’s ability to process ballots ahead of the November election.
Murphy announced on Aug. 14 the Nov. 3 election will be a hybrid-model, with New Jersey officials expanding vote-by-mail to all active registered New Jersey voters who will automatically receive a prepaid return-postage vote-by-mail ballot.
The state is tweaking the process from the May and July elections, by allowing voters the options to return ballots by mail, depositing it in a secure drop box, handing it directly to a poll worker at a polling place on Election Day and allowing for in-person voting. Any voter who chooses to cast their vote in-person will do so on a provisional ballot, while individuals with disabilities will have access to an ADA-conforming voting machine.
The first-term Democratic governor noted vote-by-mail is a common way to cast a ballot across the U.S., including five states that almost exclusively use vote-by-mail for every election.
“The Trump campaign is embarking on a brazen attempt to sow fear and confusion, and to delegitimize our elections and cast doubt on our democratic process,” said Murphy. “They are trying to distract us from focusing on our future. But we will not be distracted. Our plans for November will move forward.”
While the state’s efforts to expand participation through vote-by-mail have been ongoing for years, Murphy said it has gained added importance in order to protect both public health and the right to vote during the coronavirus pandemic.
GOP Talking Points
The governor said he is open to the Republicans suggestion of having polling stations outside. But he was dismissive of what he considered GOP talking points “myths” that the case of voter fraud in Paterson is more likely to happen again and wondered why residents can’t stand in line to vote like they currently are doing at New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission locations.
“I consider Paterson a positive data point because the people who attempted voter fraud were caught,” said Murphy. “The Motor Vehicle is a hybrid model…for the life of me, I don’t understand why people don’t get that.”
The governor said despite efforts by the President and his team to try to delegitimize the November election and impact the health and safety of millions of New Jerseyans, the state will not back down in defending its rights vigorously.
“Let me make an unequivocal statement: Our democracy is stronger and fairer when all voters have the right to not just cast a ballot, but to cast that ballot in confidence,” said Murphy. “Let me be clear: Vote-by-mail in the November election will keep people safe. Period.”
As of Aug. 19, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 188,427 with 399 new cases and four new deaths, bringing that total to 14,097. The state probable death count remained at 1,829, bringing the overall total to 15,926.
State officials noted seven deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,877, followed by Bergen at 1,788, Hudson with 1,342, Passaic at 1,098, Morris at 683, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 248, Essex has 234, Hudson has 167, Passaic and Morris at 147, Sussex has 37 and Warren has 14.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Aug. 10 was 1.6%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. By region, the north tested at 1.5%, the central at 1.4% and the south 2.5%.
As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 1.06 from 1.05 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Officials reported 471 patients are hospitalized, with 262 confirmed cases and 219 patients under investigation for having coronavirus. The north tier had 255 patients hospitalized, the central 103 and the south 143.
Of those hospitalized, 92 are in intensive care units and 32 on ventilators, while 48 patients were discharged.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 21,303, followed by Essex at 20,001, Hudson at 19,936, Middlesex at 18,133, Passaic at 18,002, Union at 16,898, Ocean at 10,805, Monmouth at 10,509, Camden at 8,845, Mercer at 8,211, Morris at 7,358, Burlington at 6,175, Somerset at 5,323, Atlantic at 3,618, Gloucester at 3,458, Cumberland at 3,441, Warren at 1,370, Sussex at 1,355, Hunterdon at 1,165, Salem at 937 and Cape May at 853.
Another 378 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 54% White, 20% Hispanic, 18% Black, 6% Asian and 2% another race. Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state.
In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 56% had cardiovascular disease, 45% diabetes, 31% other chronic diseases, 18% neurological conditions, 17% lung diseases, 15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.
A census of ages for confirmed deaths shows 48% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 31% in the range of 65-80, 16% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted currently 206 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 14,084 of the cases, broken down between 8,919 residents and 5,165 staff.
Cumulatively, 629 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 24,660 residents and 13,098 staff, for a total of 37,758 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,029 on Aug. 19. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,694 residents deaths and 120 staff deaths.