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Computer mistake meant some voters never got their May ballots

State knew about ballot delivery glitch in April but never fixed it

By David Wildstein, June 22 2020 9:43 am

Some voters never received ballots for the May 12 municipal election because malfunction with the state’s new Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) didn’t include the apartment number of voters on the address used in local elections conducted entirely by mail.

Election officials in some of the ten counties reported the glitch to Robert Giles, the director of the state Division of Elections.

“I told him about it,” an official said. “I guess he couldn’t fix it because it’s happening again.”

The New Jersey Globe reported last Friday that the same glitch has caused some ballots for the July 7 primary election to be undeliverable.

According to sources, KnowInk, the vendor managing the state voter database, has been unable to fix the problem.

The U.S. Postal Service won’t deliver a ballot to an apartment number if it’s not included in the address portion of the ballot.

Several election officials reported that returned ballots for the May non-partisan election were returned to the county clerk’s office, which gave them time to correct the mistake and mail the corrected ballots out again. Some voters called looking for ballots and were issued replacements.

But in dozens of cases, the ballots mailed by county clerks in April were not returned by the post office until after Election Day, a move that inadvertently disenfranchised voters from participating in local elections this year.

In those situations, it took the post office weeks to return a piece of mail to the sender that they identified as undeliverable in the first place.

In some places, ballots never reaching voters might have affected the outcome of the election.

Nutley finished in a tie, leaving Joseph Scarpelli and Mauro Tucci to share the mayoralty over the next four years. In Paterson, an incumbent city councilman and his challenger are tied.

The issue with apartment numbers is the latest in a series of early snafus leading into the primarily all vote-by-mail primary election called by Gov. Phil Murphy as a way of slowing the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The Globe reported last week that the voter registration system has faced frequent crashes that has terrified county election officials.

There are reports of malfunctions with integrating data collected by the state Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) into the state voter database, leaving some election officers without the ability to properly send out some Democratic and Republican ballots.

The Globe reported on Thursday that the post office is mistakenly returning some ballots to the voters who mailed them and not to the county Board of Elections.

The post office has faced criticism in recent months for not delivering ballots directly to an apartment resident’s mailbox, but instead leaving them unsorted in postal lobby areas where bulk-rate circulars are left.

Officials had complained last month that a software malfunction delayed the mailing of some military and overseas ballots.

Around 4 million New Jersey voters are expected to receive vote-by-mail ballots for next month’s primary.

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