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State Sen. Nia Gill. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Gill wants audit committee for state’s mostly-VBM primaries

Senator wants impact on seniors, minority communities examined

By Nikita Biryukov, June 23 2020 5:22 pm

State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) wants Gov. Phil Murphy to create a committee to audit the state’s mostly-vote-by-mail primaries, and she wants residents to push urge Murphy to do same.

“Now more than ever our right to vote and our right to have our vote counted is being threatened,” Gill said in a message to supporters. “Call Governor Murphy and let him know he must appoint an audit committee, conduct an audit, and issue a post-election report which includes the impact of vote-by-mail on senior citizens and minority communities.”

The senator’s move has the support of the Legislative Black Caucus.

“We have to support Sen. Gill, and we do support Sen. Gill,” said State Sen. Ron Rice (D-Newark), the caucus’s chairman.

Gill’s comes a day after Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt asked U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito to provide federal monitors for the state’s primaries.

The July 7 races will be conducted almost entirely using mail-in ballots, with registered Republicans and Democrats receiving a postage prepaid mail-in ballot. Independents will get a mail-in ballot application they can return free of charge.

All voters will be able to cast their ballots provisionally at a smaller number of in-person polling places, with at least one remaining open in each of the state’s municipalities, and each of the state’s counties will have to keep at least half of their polling places open on election day.

The state has faced a bevy of logistical problems since it held its first all-VBM elections in May.

The U.S. Postal Service has, at times, taken weeks to deliver completed mail-in ballots to elections officials. Such late-arriving ballots are not counted despite being postmarked by election day.

Murphy has extended the grace period for late-arriving primary ballots from two days following the close of polls to seven days for the primary. That will likely provide an additional cushion to some ballots, but it’s likely some voters will still see their vote invalidated because of post office delays.

In some cases, USPS returned completed mail-in ballots to voters instead of relaying them to election officials.

Separately, New Jersey’s Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) is crashing frequently, at times keeping election officials from accessing voter information during business hours and preventing them from properly sending ballots to some voters.

Other problems with the Motor Vehicle Commission’s data collection system — the MVC provides information to the Division of Elections when state residents complete any driver’s license transaction, including name and address changes — have stripped election officials of the ability to send ballots to some registered Republicans and Democrats.

Voter fraud concerns have been raised in Paterson, where state and federal authorities have launched election fraud probes after hundreds of ballots were found bound together in three separate mailboxes.

In Belleville, mail-in ballots were left unattended in bulk in the lobby of an apartment building.

This article was updated with comment from Rice at 5:46 p.m.

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