Home>Governor>Murphy confident growing number of technical problems won’t disenfranchise voters

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

Murphy confident growing number of technical problems won’t disenfranchise voters

Governor keeping a closer watch on U.S. Postal Service

By Nikita Biryukov, June 24 2020 3:02 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy said he continued to believe that technical glitches at the Motor Vehicle Commission and with the New Jersey’s Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) wouldn’t disenfranchise voters in primaries now less than two weeks away.

“Again, I have a very high degree of confidence,” Murphy said.

Over past week, the New Jersey Globe has reported multiple problems with the MVC’s integration of voter registration data the agency collects that could prevent voters from receiving a mail-in ballot.

Some voters had their party affiliation switched after an MVC visit. Registration figures for the Natural Law Party spiked from 396 voters in June 2016 to 7,019 this year. The defunct party last ran a candidate in New Jersey nearly two decades ago.

The Reform Party of New Jersey, which was disbanded more than 15 years ago, has grown from 146 members to 1,987.

Elections officials say voters who had their party affiliation changed in such a way can still cast a primary vote provisionally, but those votes are unlikely to be counted absent a court order.

Hundreds of voters who changed their names during an MVC visit have received more than one ballot. Instead of altering a voter’s name in the SVRS, the MVC is instead creating a new registration, often without deleting the old one.

There’s no system in place to flag these duplicate votes, officials said.

A separate SVRS glitch has caused some ballots’ mailing labels to not include voters’ apartment numbers, potentially making those ballots undeliverable.

The same issue was present during non-partisan municipal elections held in May but appears to have persisted despite warnings to the state’s top election officials.

Despite his hesitance to recognize those issues, the governor is keeping closer tabs on the U.S. Postal Service ahead of primary day.

“I still want to make sure the postal Service is doing their job,” Murphy said. “I’ve got a call, I think, scheduled with the chief operating officer tomorrow of the U.S. Postal Service.”

In May, hundreds of properly completed ballots arrived too late to be counted despite being postmarked by election day.

The state has increased the grace period for late-arriving ballots from two days to seven days to prevent voters being disenfranchised in a similar way next month, but some ballots took multiple weeks to reach elected officials.

In other cases, completed ballots were simply returned to voters instead of being delivered to county election boards.

Murphy declined to clearly say whether he would invite State Division of Elections Director Bob Giles and MVC Chief Administrator Sue Fulton, the two officials best positioned to address the growing number of election-related technical problems, to appear at future daily briefings.

“Who we bring up here every day to speak to things we consider whoever we think is relevant, so that’s a decision we make and will make,” he said.

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