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New Jersey spent $89,000 for one online voter

Division of Election tested system to allow voters needing special assistance to vote online in all-VBM May election

By David Wildstein, June 02 2020 10:33 am

New Jersey spent $89,000 to test online voting, but just one voter used the system in the May 12 non-partisan municipal elections.

New Jersey Division of Elections director Robert F. Giles awarded the contact, obtained by the New Jersey Globe,  to Seattle-based Democracy Live, Inc. on April 27 to test an electronic ballot delivery system that would allow voters needing special assistance to vote online using their computer or mobile device.

The contract was not publicly bid.

“This was all very hush-hush,” a county clerk, speaking on the condition of anonymity told Globe.  “They didn’t want this heavily publicized.  They were just testing it and didn’t want people to know about it in case something went wrong.”

The contract, which had been in the works, was not finalized until after ballots for the all-VBM May 12 elections had already been printed and mailed.

Several election officials told the Globe that Giles instructed them to include an insert with the ballots that included vague language saying that a disabled voter needing assistance should call the county clerk’s office.

One election official described the process as an “honor system” that would allow a voter to supply them with an e-mail address to send a link for online voting without any effective verification process.

“We were told to just ask for an email address,” the official said.

Voters in need of assistance also had the ability to vote in-person using a traditional machine at the county election office.

The all-VBM election affected 33 municipalities across ten counties where contests for local offices and two referendums were being held.

The Globe is withholding the name of the Bergen County voter out of privacy concerns.  Because just one voter participated, the disclosure of that name could allow impede the privacy of a private ballot.

Democracy Live also provided an electronic vote-by-mail ballot known as an Omniballot that complies with the Americans with Disabilities and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) laws.

While no announcement was made by the state – Gov. Phil Murphy never mentioned the online voting option in his daily press briefings – POLITICO Playbook first reported a week before the election that the test was underway.

Democracy Live Contract
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