Gov. Phil Murphy said he was first informed of a U.S. Postal Service error that saw roughly 6,500 primary mail-in ballots received on July 7 postmarked for the following day earlier Monday, but the New Jersey Globe has learned said the governor’s office was looped in far earlier than that.
“The answer to when did I find out about it? About an hour, an hour and a half ago,” Murphy said, adding he knew few details of the situation.
But division of Elections Director Bob Giles looped in the governor’s office, the office of the attorney general and county election officials shortly after receiving a July 9 letter from USPS Industrial Engineering Operations manager Justin Glass.
The email was included in a filing by the state attorney general on Friday in response to a lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign, and national and state Republicans, challenging Murphy’s executive order for a general election to be conducted almost entirely through vote-by-mail ballots.
POLITICO reporter Matt Friedman first reported the email in a tweet on Monday.
In his email, Glass listed the amount of believed-to-be valid ballots from each of New Jersey’s 21 counties. The greatest share of the 6,535 ballots came from Middlesex, 1,266, and Morris, 1,017, counties, though five other counties had more than 500 ballots incorrectly postmarked.
USPS alerted at least some county election officials of the problem sooner than they did the director of the Division of Elections.
“Based on the Postal Service’s operational processes, we believe ballots located at a delivery unit on the morning of July 8, and delivered later that same day, would have been received by the Postal Service on or Before July 7, 2020,” Blackwood Postmaster John Glen said in a July 8 letter to the Camden County Board of Elections.
It’s not clear how many of the 6,535 votes were counted, if any were. By statute, they shouldn’t have been.
State law requires ballots arriving after polls have closed be postmarked by election day.
Those rules were the same for the state’s primary elections, and an executive order, legislation or a court order would be needed for those ballots to be legally countable. There’s no evidence any of those was issued.
They also wouldn’t be counted under the rules Murphy established for New Jersey’s mostly-mail general election. The governor on Monday did not say whether any of the votes were tallied.