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Judge denies GOP request for disclosure of hand-delivered mail-in ballots

By Nikita Biryukov, November 03 2020 2:46 pm

A Mercer County Superior Court judge denied a last-minute request from the Republican State Committee that sought to force county election boards to report the number of hand-delivered mail-in ballots cast at polling places Tuesday.

Judge Mary Jacobson ruled did not rule on the Republican Party’s request for the release of certifications signed by voters who hand deliver their ballots, citing the state’s attorney’s lack of opportunity to inquire on such manners.

She also did not issue a ruling on a permanent injunction that would have required the state to report the number of such ballots in future elections.

The New Jersey GOP abandoned its request that election officials be forced to report the number of hand-delivered ballots received every two hours.

Bridgewater Mayor Matthew Moench, who served as counsel for the plaintiffs, which included the state committee, State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean’s (R-Westfield) congressional campaign and county Republican organizations from Somerset and Union, said such reporting would be impractical given the hearing’s 1 p.m. start time.

The Republicans argued the such ballot counts should be released because board workers are already required to release the number of provisional and machine votes cast in two-hour increments.

Though state law makes no mention of such reporting for hand-delivered mail-in ballots — this year’s election is the first to allow them — Moench argued it was in line with legislative intent to improve transparency.

Deputy Attorney General Steven Gleeson said the statute’s language clearly did not include hand-delivered ballots, also citing legislation codifying Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order mandating a mostly-mail election.

That order included no such reporting requirement.

Gleeson further argued poll workers were not trained to count hand-delivered ballots. Moench said they could make the count quickly by counting the number of certification pages.

The Democratic State Committee, represented by Raj Parikh, did not take a stance on the reporting requirement, though they attended the call to question the intent of their Republican counterparts, citing a defeated federal suit launched by President Donald Trump’s campaign that sought to block the state’s mostly-mail election.

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