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U.S. Army Sgt. Rebeca A. Salazar and Soldiers with Alpha Company, 104th Brigade Engineer Battalion, New Jersey Army National Guard, salute during national anthem at the welcome home ceremony at the National Guard Armory at West Orange, NJ. (New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

National Guard counting votes in Monmouth

Military assisting as more than 15,000 uncounted provisional ballots face upcoming certification deadline

By David Wildstein, July 17 2020 1:02 pm

The New Jersey National Guard is helping the Monmouth County Board of Elections count ballots that are still not included in the final vote tally, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

National Guard members have been at the election office in Freehold for two weeks to assist with the vote-counting process, which includes opening envelopes containing ballots to be scanned through a counting machine.

Monmouth still has about 17,500 provisional ballots that have not yet been counted.

The New Jersey Globe first reported that the National Guard was providing Election Day assistance in the state’s first primary election conducted primarily through vote-by-mail ballots.

Some New Jerseyans, including Republican legislators and the American Civil Liberties, had initially voiced concerns about the imagery of the military playing a role in the election process.

It’s not clear what role the National Guard played on a county-by-county basis.  In Essex, National Guard members accompanied Board of Elections employees to collect ballots from secure drop boxes in five different locations.

Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Denville), a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot and West Point graduate, was critical of Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision to mostly cancel in-person voting in the July 7 primary election.

“The fact that Governor Murphy needs the National Guard to count ballots proves his experiment of a mail-in-ballot election is a failure.  The last time I remember the military was needed to help in an election process was as a soldier in Iraq in 2005,” said Bergen. “I hope the Governor can see the hypocrisy in calling these vote-by-mail elections a success and simultaneously deploying the National Guard.”

In June, Army Gen. Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apologized for taking part in a photo op with President Donald Trump near the White House.

Milley acknowledged that the photograph “sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society.”

“I should not have been there,” Milley said. “My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

This story was updated at 2:21 PM on July 18.

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