Gov. Phil Murphy sees the jump in the number of returned mail-in ballots as a defense of his resistance to criticism of the state’s new vote by mail law.
“I thought the criticism was always unfounded, but the execution — I accept we needed to wrinkle some pieces of it out. I think we’ve done that for the most part,” Murphy said. “It feels to me, again we’ll do a post mortem on it because it’s like having a conversation about how did the game go in the middle of the fourth quarter, but it feels like it’s getting to the place we wanted it to.”
As of polls opening Tuesday morning, voters had returned 42.3% of the mail-in ballots sent out by county clerks.
That number represents a 110.8% increase over the total number of vote by mail ballots cast in 2015, the last time Assembly seats were at the top of the ticket.
Clerks will be accepting mail-in ballots until Thursday as long as they’re post marked by today.
The state’s new VBM law puts voters who requested mail in ballots in and after 2016 on a list to received those ballots in perpetuity.
The measure was criticized by some for the way it was implemented — some clerks said at the time they had received no guidance from the state about the change — and by Republicans, who said it was a move by Democrats angling for more votes.
The former argument was further developed somewhat after legislators passed a cleanup bill that changed the bill’s language so it would explicitly add voters who requested mail-in ballots in 2018 and after to the perpetual VBM list.
Before that amendment was passed, Secretary of State Tahesha Way issued a ruling that said the bill, as written, only applied to voters who requested mail-in ballots in 2016 and 2017.
Click play for audio version of this story