This year, New Jersey voters will have several options for casting their ballot in the upcoming General Election.
As part of an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order directing every active, registered voter in the state to receive a mail-in ballot. Lawmakers in Trenton followed by making those provisions law for this year.
Ballots have arrived in mailboxes across the state and the majority of New Jerseyans are expected to vote without ever stepping foot inside of a traditional polling location.
“As the pandemic continues to threaten our public health, we have made adjustments to the upcoming election to provide every New Jersey voter the opportunity to safely cast their vote,” Murphy said in a press release announcing a statewide education campaign to help voters understand the vote-by-mail process.
“By staying home and voting by mail, we can participate in our democracy while doing our part to keep our fellow voters and our election workers safe,” Murphy said.
In an election year unlike any other, there’s a lot to know ahead of Nov. 3, from checking your voter registration to tracking your mail-in ballot to where to drop your ballots off.
Counties were required to send mail-in ballots to every active, registered voter by Oct. 5. If you haven’t received your mail-in ballot by Oct. 13, the state want voters to contact their county clerk’s office.
If you’re unsure about your voter registration status, the state has established a website to allow you to check your status. If you’re not an active voter, contact your county board of elections by Oct. 23 to request a ballot. If you’re not registered to vote, you can do so online by Oct. 13.
Secretary of State Tahesha Way said, “It’s as easy as vote, sign, seal, return. How you return it is up to you.”
“Once you have received your ballot, if you know how you are voting, there is no need to wait,” said Way. “We’re making it very easy and encouraging everyone to vote by mail as soon as they receive their ballot rather than having to wait until Election Day itself. However, if you prefer to drop off your ballot in a secure local drop box or in-person, you can certainly do so.”
Voters have four options for returning their mail-in ballots:
- Mailing it back to the county board of elections using the postage-paid return envelope. Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and those received through Nov. 10 will be counted.
- Placing it into one of the secure drop boxes set up around each county. Ballots can only be put into a drop box located in your home county because votes are tallied at the county level and must be dropped into the box by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
- Bringing it in person on Election Day to your local county board of elections office. Ballots must be delivered by 8 p.m.
- Submitting in person on Election Day at your designated polling place. Counties will notify voters by the end of the month of where polling sites will be located in each town.
Casting Mail-In Ballots
According to the state Division of Elections, voters can turn in their own ballots, as well as three additional ballots, when delivering votes to a drop box, post office or county election office. The person who transports the ballots for other voters becomes a “bearer” and must sign the bearer portion of the ballot’s outer envelope in the presence of the voter when taking the ballot from them.
If voters decide to bring their ballot to a polling site on Election Day, they must deliver their own ballot.
Signature verification of mail-in ballots begins upon receipt, but vote counting starts on Nov. 3, after polls close. Election officials will compare your signature with the one on file in the statewide voter registration system.
If you forget to sign your ballot or county election officials believe there is a mismatched signature, they may contact you and tell you how to fix the issue. If your signature has changed since you registered to vote, update it here.
To avoid having your ballot rejected, election officials are reminding voters to: complete ballots early, so they can be submitted in time to be counted, be sure to sign the certificate attached to the envelope and enclose ballots in the inner envelope, seal it and put into the outer envelope, sealed. Also, be sure to only use blue or black ink when filling out your ballot.
On Election Day, voters can vote by a provisional ballot at their polling place. However since provisional ballots are counted after all other ballots, state election officials said this should be considered a last resort.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 and at least one polling site per district will be open on Election Day. However, some locations may change and you may not be voting at your usual polling place.
Instead of machines, polling locations will utilize a paper provisional ballot—unless someone has documented audio or visual impairment that requires an accommodation.
Since election officials first have to count mail-in ballots to ensure there are no duplicate votes, provisional ballots won’t be tallied until at least Nov. 10, the last day counties can accept ballots that are postmarked by Election Day.
Tracking Your Ballot
Mail-in ballot voters can track their ballots, however, you must sign up for access beforehand. If you registered to vote prior to 2005, you’ll need your voter ID number—which is printed on your mail-on ballot—or your driver’s license if you register after 2005.
“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.”
If a voter already submitted a mail-in ballot and it was already counted, the provisional ballot will be rejected.
For More Information
The state has created a 2020 Voter Information Portal, which contains information on the voting process, as well as links to its ballot trackers, secure ballot drop box locations, polling sites and important contacts.