There are multiple reports of ballots received by county election boards a week or more after they were postmarked by the local office, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
In an election conducted entirely through vote-by-mail ballots, New Jersey depends on the U.S. Postal Service to delivery VBM ballots quickly.
Election officials in several counties cited multiple examples of ballots that arrived on Monday and Tuesday that had been postmarked more than a week earlier. In one case, a ballot belonging to a high-level elected official was postmarked on April 30 but did not arrive at the Board of Elections until May 12 – a nearly two-week journey for a ballot that only needed to travel a short distance.
What happens to ballots postmarked before last night’s 8 PM deadline that are not delivered until next week?
“They’ve been coming in late for years and they will continue to come in late,” an election official told the Globe. “It’s the Post Office we’re talking about.”
State law requires ballots to be counted as long as they arrive at the county election office by close of business on Thursday.
“If a voter makes a good faith effort to mail their ballot on time and the post office takes their time delivering it, then the voter is disenfranchised,” another election official said. “Their vote won’t count unless a judge orders us to open the ballot.”
Uncounted votes could make a difference in several races across the state that remain too close to call.
Just one vote separates two candidates for an at-large council seat in Orange, two votes separate candidates for Bass River commissioner, and there is a 10-vote difference between two candidates for a Ocean City council seat.
In Nutley, where tradition dictates that the top vote-getter becomes mayor – high stakes in a town where people take local politics seriously – Mayor Joseph Scarpelli leads Commissioner Mauro Tucci by 19 votes.
The U.S. Postal Service has faced criticism for their handling of the May 12 elections, including delays in the delivery of political mail and the mishandling of vote-by-mail ballots in urban areas.