When an 82-year-old woman showed up to vote at her polling place in Manalapan today, poll workers turned her away. They said she could not vote as a Republican because she’s on the rolls as Libertarian.
But Ann P. Ciaccio wasn’t going to be disenfranchised without a fight, so she went to court and asked a judge to allow her to cast her vote.
Records show that Ciaccio registered as a member of the Libertarian Party in August 2020 while applying for identification at the Motor Vehicles Commission.
Ciaccio said she had no recollection of registering as a Libertarian and never intended to affiliate with that party. She testified that she was not seeking to perpetrate any fraud, but rather to protect her right to vote.
Superior Court Judge Mara Zazzali-Hogan allowed Ciaccio to vote by provisional ballot, and finding her testimony to be credible,” ordered her provisional ballot to be counted and that her party affiliation “revert to her prior registration as a Republican.”
“The right to vote would be empty indeed if it did not include the right of choice for whom to vote,” Zazzali-Hogan said.
In July 2020, more than a month before Ciaccio’s issue occurred, the state acknowledged that a computer glitch at motor vehicles was responsible for some voters being assigned the wrong party identification.
Minor party registration had increased 2169% between 2016 and 2020.
New Jersey’s 2018 Motor Voter law automatically registers any eligible voter conducting a transaction at a state motor vehicle agency, unless they specifically opt-out.
The prompt refers to a screen allows voter to select a party affiliation: Democratic, Republican, Unaffiliated or other. If the choice is other, the voter is taken to a new screen that offers a choice of seven third-party options: Green, Libertarian, N.J. Conservative, Natural Law, Reform, Socialist or U.S. Constitution.
The design flaw is that voters must pick one of those seven parties; there is no way to complete the motor vehicle transaction without doing so.
The now-defunct Natural Law Party, which hasn’t run a candidate in New Jersey in 21 years, has seen their voter registration jump from 396 voters in June 2016 to 7,019 in 2020.
Among the voters registered with the Natural Law Party was a New Jersey woman who voted in 13 of 18 Democratic primaries but found that election officials changed her party affiliation in 2018 without her knowledge after a visit to a motor vehicle agency.
The Reform Party of New Jersey was founded in 1995 as a vehicle for Ross Perot’s independent presidential campaign, has grown from 146 members to 1,987 now, even though the organization disbanded more than 17 years ago.
Records show that a lopsided number of new minor political party registrants have come by way of the Motor Vehicle Commission customer service experience.