NJ Election Day 2012: Confusion, Questions, Court & Disenfrachisement

Blue Jersey has learned that ACLU-NJ is petitioning a state Superior Court judge to require the state to accept a federal absentee ballot to ease the disenfrachising effect of the post-Sandy email and fax voting that has overwhelmed many election officials today - um, wow - and left some voters confused and feeling shut out. Earlier today Star-Ledger reported ACLU was seeking a court order to allow voters to write their ballot on blank sheets of paper. That was incorrect. It is the federal absentee:

Here is what the federal absentee ballot looks like.

Clearly, ACLU-NJ is seeking an emergency fix to an increasingly problematic voting day for some scads of voters, and election officials. I give them credit. But it's late in the day, less than 4 hours till polls close, and even the sought-after fix may present problems.

Among problems possibly presented by ACLU's proposed remedy:

  • Voters must know the name of each office they want to vote in, and supply the name (correctly spelled) of the candidate they want to vote for.

  • Also must write in some semblance of the public referendum questions into blank spaces, if they are to vote on referenda.

  • Straight-ticket voting - all D, or all R - which is how many voters do things, is impossible unless the voter remembers the name of every person running, up and down the ballot. Which would seem to make it likely that:

  • Lots of down-ballot candidates won't get votes in this system, and possibly also the email/fax system already set up, and provisional ballots. And that would seem to favor incumbents in those races.

  • Federal absentee ballot requires the voter to choose 1 of 4 possible classifications to describe themselves, none of which seem obviously to apply to a storm-displaced person. Yeah. Confusing. The only one that could fit a storm-displaced person? That's #4, and it reads like this:

    I am a U.S. citizen otherwise granted military/overseas voting rights under State law (check the Voting Assistance Guide).

    All in all, both the Christie administration's post-Sandy directives and the fix ACLU is suggesting would seem to require a great deal of each voter. And because of that, what we may have here - not necessarily by anyone's fault - is a 2-tiered situation: Voters where polling places are open, powered and accessible can vote as they always have. Displaced voters, if they vote, may be more likely to vote incomplete ballots, giving them less say in more localized elections.

    Via PolitickerNJ, Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin reports his office is swamped with email and faxed ballot applications - a processing crisis. Among the reasons? Durkin says the process, set up fairly hastily by Christie administration directive post-hurricane, is meant only for displaced voters (and first responders). But people who shouldn't are also trying to vote that way. Essex alone is reporting thousands of applications; each requiring about 15 minutes to process, including signature verification.

    Stories like this in Morris County have been appearing, along with a steady stream of calls for help on Twitter and Facebook (samples below the fold) and calls to 1-800-OUR-VOTE, the election protection hotline. New Jersey Democrats also have a voting legal hotline: 732-640-2250.

    Meanwhile, the deadline has been extended for counting emailed and faxed ballots to Friday at 8 p.m. according to a new directive issued by LG Guadagno.

    Since Hurricane Sandy, no less than 5 directives have been issued by the Christie administration that relate to New Jersey voters and election day processes. Most voters, some still without power, are completely unaware of them. Here is today's directive extending County Clerks' deadline to process mail-in ballot application by

    email or fax to Friday Nov. 9 at noon (deadline to apply for the ballot remains 5pm).
    Jake Stuiver

    Just found someone who normally votes at 220 Adams in the 3-1 district and belongs there but they sent him to the multi, which also turned him away. I'm with him now back at 220 insisting that they let him vote. ANY registered voter that walks into ANY polling place in Hoboken is supposed to be allowed to vote hassle-free. The county workers are not helping with this and you should NOT ALLOW THEM TO DISENFRANCHISE YOU!!! The person who I brought back to 220 was now just miraculously "found" on their list after I personally asserted myself to the poll workers, who know who I am. Disgusting!

    Charlie Kratovil

    Reports of NB [New Brunswick - ed.] voters being denied provisional ballots. If they try this w/ you, refuse to leave. It's the law, they have to let u vote!

    RE https://twitter.com/AriBerman/...

    @njdotcom still waiting for my electronic ballot from Sussex. They say they are sending around 2pm... #njvote

    — Kim N (@knumes) November 6, 2012

    @njdotcom My 90 year old mom has not received her Middlesex ballot yet. She will miss voting for the first time since FDR! Please help!

    — Karen (@LoreleiNYC) November 6, 2012

    @njdotcom Sent app to email vote in Morris Cty- heard nothing. Once app is sent, in person voting is not allowed (per clerk website).

    — Chris Turner (@ultitoast) November 6, 2012

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