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Voters need to drop VBM ballots in the mailbox themselves, even spouses or partners are ‘technically’ considered bearers

In New Jersey, it’s caveat suffragium feror – that’s Latin for ‘voter beware’

By David Wildstein, June 17 2020 3:03 pm

Voters who cast vote-by-mail ballots in the July 7 primary election need to physically put their ballot in the mailbox themselves or risk not having their vote count.

That means a spouse or partner can’t walk to the edge of their driveway and put more than their own ballot in their mailbox, unless they fill out the bearer section of the ballot.  The same applies to a U.S. Postal Service mailbox.

“If someone other than the voter places a ballot in a mailbox, technically that person would be a bearer,” said Alicia D’Alessandro, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Secretary of State.

Leland Moore, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, had no comment.

Still, there is virtually no way to prove who placed a ballot in a mailbox, a county election official told the New Jersey Globe.

State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver), who sponsored legislation in 2015 that reduced the number of vote-by-mail ballots delivered by a bearer from ten to three, said the legislature never intended to stop people from putting their outgoing family mail in a mailbox.

“That’s a ridiculous overreach,” O’Scanlon said.  “We were after people harvesting ballots of strangers.  That’s what the real concern was.”

The Globe posed the question of bearer ballots to state election officials are reporting that a Paterson couple voted by mail in the May 12 municipal election, but found that their ballots – both postmarked on time – didn’t arrive at the Passaic County Board of Elections until they were too late to be counted.

One ballot took eight days to make the 3.8 mile excursion from the Woodland Park – the voter, Carlos A. Gonzalez, said he brought his ballot and one filled out by his wife to the local post office — and the other took 21 days.

Postal delays may have affected the outcome of the election: both voters told the Globe that they voted for Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, who currently trails incumbent Shahin Khalique by just one vote, 1,727 to 1,726, in the race for the 2nd Ward council seat.

O’Scanlon said that the post office’s recent performance could affect the future of vote-by-mail elections in New Jersey.

“It’s an argument for in-person voting,” the Monmouth County senator said.

Also in Paterson, Shanki Jumhour went to the offices of the Passaic County Board of Elections to drop off his ballot.

He brought four other ballots with him – all members of his immediate family and all living at the same address.

Just three members of the family had their votes counted.  The other two were rejected.

As the bearer, Jumhour was limited under state law to carry just three ballots into the county office.

Editor’s note: at the suggestion of a reader, the Latin translation in the sub-headline was changed at 3:40 PM.

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