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This is what campaigns will be watching in too close to call races

By David Wildstein, November 12 2020 1:02 pm

Tight races across New Jersey – either for Congress in the 7th district or in multiple too close to call contests for county and municipal offices – could face recounts or court challenges over the coming weeks.

But in the meantime, campaigns are not yet over.

Here are some of the issues close-race candidates will address over the coming days:

* Chasing Cure Letters: New Jersey allows voters to correct technical defects of ballots, such as unmatched signatures.  Election officials notify voters by sending cure letters. The deadline to cure deficiencies is November 18, so campaigns will pursue partisan voters they believe will be theirs in order to ensure the ballots are counted.

There’s still no word how many cure letters have been sent out and how many have been returned.

Elect Casey by Norman Rockwell.

* Checking Postmarks: Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order mandating a general election conducted primarily through vote-by-mail ballots require election officials to accept ballots postmarked on or before November 3 as long as the U.S. Postal Service delivered them by close of business on November 10.

Murphy also ordered the acceptance of ballots without any postmark at all, as long as the post office delivered them by close of business on November 5.

Campaigns will likely conduct a thorough review of individual ballots rejected due to postmarks.  The next step will be to contact voters directly to ask when the mailed their ballot.  If a voter who the campaign believes to be supportive  says they mailed their ballot on time – essentially blaming the post office for their potential disenfranchisement – the follow-up would be to obtain an affidavit and ask a judge to allow the vote.

It’s not clear how a judge will rule.  This is New Jersey, and if you’ve seen one judge, you’ve seen one judge.

* Naked Ballots: Naked Ballots occur when voters fail to include and sign the inner envelope and place their ballot directly into the outer envelope.  A Superior Court Judge allowed some Hunterdon voters to rectify the issue on a one-by-one basis, but the state appellate court declined to issue a blanket statewide ruling.  Murphy supports the curing of Naked Ballots, but his attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, has opposed that in court.

In some close races, Naked Ballots could swing an election.  Campaigns will do some research and ask a judge to allow voters to rectify the defect so that the vote will be counted – if they think the vote will go to their candidate.

* Over-Votes: A small number of vote-by-mail ballots were rejected because voters mistakenly marked their choice of one candidate, crossed it out, and voted for someone else.  The New Jersey Globe has learned that in some cases, the voter wrote a note on the ballot indicating their preference.  That will be up to the Board of Elections to decide – or a judge.

* Challenged Votes: County Board of Elections have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans and that panel will determine whether ballots identified for possible rejection by staff will be counted or tossed.  Campaigns will likely – and clearly through back-channels – tell their commissioners which votes they want.  The research on this

New Jersey has no automatic recounts and candidates can not seek a recount until the elections are certified by the county clerk.

The deadline to certify the 2020 election is November 20.

During mostly-all VBM primary, judges granted several counties who had not yet completed counting a one-week extension.

November 20 is also the deadline to file a recount application with the courts.

December 5 is the deadline to contest the outcome of any general election contest with the courts.

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