Gov. Phil Murphy expects to make a decision on what New Jersey’s November elections will look like by mid-August.
“That’s a decision we want to make, probably at latest by the middle of August,” he said.
Election officials have told the New Jersey Globe they could accommodate an election held either in-person or mostly through vote-by-mail ballots but said they would need a decision on the general election sooner rather than later, with some saying they needed guidance on November by Saturday.
Some told the Globe that the time difference between a decision made on Aug. 1 and Aug. 15 could be significant, but a senior administration official said the front office’s talks with county clerks and other election officials turned up deadlines between Aug. 10 and Aug. 15.
The governor waved away concerns about how a decision that came about two weeks later could impact the general election.
“Different months, same question,” Murphy said. “Mid-August is plenty.”
In-person voting has emerged as a key factor in the decision-making process this time around.
Every registered Republican and Democrat received a postage-prepaid mail-in ballot for primaries held earlier this month, while unaffiliated voters received vote-by-mail applications they could return free of charge.
Those who didn’t wish to cast their ballot at a mailbox had the option of voting provisionally at a reduced number of polling places.
Each county was required to have at least half of its regular polling places open, with at least one location in each municipality, though it’s not clear that all 21 of New Jersey’s counties met those thresholds.
“The in-person side of the equation is the side that needed more robust attention and a longer runway, so the urgency, ironically — I didn’t think I’d be saying this — to get a decision by the middle of August is more for the in-person side, to make sure we’ve got that,” Murphy said Wednesday.
So far, the administration’s primary post-mortem has turned up mostly good news, though the front office is still in talks with clerks, county election boards and some campaigns meant to identify problem areas ahead of a presidential election.
Murphy said he hasn’t discussed what the general election will look like with Democratic leaders in the legislature, though he added such discussions would come before election day arrives.
“We’ve had general conversations. I don’t recall of a specific one,” he said. “I spoke to the senate president yesterday and the speaker the night before, but it wasn’t on what voting will look like, but we will obviously, as we did before the primary.”