Earlier this week, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 177 (EO 177), modifying the November 3 General election by creating vote-by-mail (VBM). The Order suspends the sending of sample ballots and requires each election official from every county in the State to send the VBM ballot with pre-paid postage to every active registered voter within their county. The voters would also have the option to either return the ballot to a secured box or a polling location. It also suspends the county-resident requirement for poll workers outlined in N.J.S.A. 19:6-2.
In order to address the inflow of the ballots, the Order extends the deadline to allow ballots to be counted valid. As long as it is returned through the United States Postal Service (USPS) and postmarked on or before November 3, the ballot can be counted if it is received by 8 pm on November 10. Voters will then have the option to either return their ballot through a secure drop box or turn in their ballot at a polling location on Election Day.
The order also requires that each county open at a minimum at least one (1) polling place in each municipality (with 50% minimum of regularly used polling places); and ensure that polling places and poll workers implement certain requirements. Any voter who did not return VBM ballot and appears at the polling place on Election Day must vote by provisional ballot. Accommodations will be made for voters with disabilities. The Order further directs that:
- Each county shall have at least a total of ten (10) secure ballot drop boxes in locations that are readily accessible to the registered voters within the county. Locations will be based on geographic location and population density to the best serve the voters. The Secretary of State will be establishing guidelines for ballot drop boxes.
- All public primary and secondary schools shall be closed to in-person instruction on November 3, 2020 to utilize the buildings as polling locations. Schools cannot deny a request to use their facilities on Election Day.
- The county Boards of Elections shall meet at least four (4) days per week starting October 13, 2020, in order to expedite the signature-verification process outlined in N.J.S.A. 19:63-17. Voters whose ballots are rejected for missing or discrepant signature will be given the opportunity to cure the signature defect based on a procedure established by the Secretary of State.
The Order also requires the Secretary of State to perform several tasks including, establishing appropriate standards for ensuring that all voters with disabilities are able to exercise their right to vote in the November General Election; facilitating the public’s understanding of the rules governing the November General Election; and, establishing a hotline number for reports of violations of the election laws.
The Order took effect immediately.
Contact: Ciara Bradley, Legislative Analyst, email@example.com,609-695-3481, x 128.