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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Murphy: GOP State Committee’s call for federal election monitors ‘ridiculous’

Governor says request a ‘political talking point’

By Nikita Biryukov, June 23 2020 2:08 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy called a request for federal election monitors made by the Republican State Committee absurd Tuesday, further claiming the move was a purely political one.

“That’s a political talking point. That’s ridiculous,” Murphy said. “That’s not to say the vote by mail has been a clean shot, perfect, because we know it hasn’t been, but we think we’ve got a really good balance between vote by mail and in-person voting.”

On Monday, Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito requesting federal monitors for New Jersey’s July 7 primaries, citing logistical roadblocks and other irregularities seen during the state’s all-vote-by-mail non-partisan municipal elections in May.

In an effort to reduce the chance of a renewed surge of COVID-19 cases, next month’s primaries will be conducted almost entirely through mail-in ballots.

Each registered Republican and Democrat in the state will receive a mail-in ballot with postage pre-paid, while unaffiliated voters will receive a vote-by-mail application they can return for free.

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.

“I will use the opportunity to say to folks: Vote by mail,” Murphy said. “We’re seeing in Kentucky, where they did give you the option, you’ve still got a lot of people jammed in together optically, and that’s not a good thing for public health.”

The state has faced a bevy of logistical problems since 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.

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