With the novel coronavirus pandemic, the resultant cases of COVID-19 disease, and the recent enactment of the state of emergency here in New Jersey, it is incumbent on all of us to do our part to minimize the community spread and that includes adopting proactive measures for our upcoming elections.
Vote By Mail, also known as “vote from home”, is the responsible and secure way for all of us, but especially for seniors who are at risk of contracting this viral illness, to participate in our democracy. In fact our most vulnerable, those with underlying medical issues, will benefit from voting by mail.
By voting from home, each of us can be a part of the solution to minimize the growth of a community spread viral illness. Using Vote By Mail eliminates the need to gather at the polling precinct on election day to vote, avoids the touching of voting machine surfaces, and reduces the risk for election day poll workers and volunteers. It employs self-isolation and social distancing, two critical practices to stem the contagion.
Every year, the volume of voters voting by mail has increased and there are currently over a half million active Vote By Mail voters in New Jersey. County Clerks and county Boards of Elections need to be prepared for the impending volume, especially in a Presidential election year, but even more so with this world pandemic. In order to process the volume, researchers from Princeton University and Rutgers University who have researched and studied secure election technology for two decades have recommended precinct-based optical scanner voting machines that count voter hand-marked paper ballots. The Dominion ImageCast Precinct optical voting scanners are secure and simple and take only seconds to scan the voter’s ballot. These will not only provide security in our elections but also allow the county to process the volume of paper ballots. Not only are these secure machines the most cost-effective option for the county, there are over $13 million of federal funding and matching state funds from the Help America Vote Act and almost $10 million appropriated from the US Elections Assistance Committee for us to purchase them and have them in place for the Primary Elections this June.
The reasons are clear why we need to move from “Election Day” voting at the local polling place during the coronavirus pandemic. We need to enact measures now to protect our communities and to protect our votes. Our participation in our great democracy and our health depends on all of us to do the right thing now.
Uyen Khuong is the Executive Director of ATNJ Education Fund (ATNJEF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization based in New Jersey. ATNJ Education Fund is known for its initiatives to lower the barriers to voting among communities where there are gaps to participation along income, racial, and educational lines, namely through the education of Vote By Mail.