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

Murphy says administration taking ballot concerns ‘very seriously’

Governor still wants voters to cast ballots through the post

By Nikita Biryukov, July 02 2020 2:23 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy pushed back on the idea that his administration was minimizing technical problems that could disenfranchise some voters in next week’s primaries on Thursday.

“We take all — any — concerns that we’ve heard very seriously, and we try to run them down, whether it’s with the U.S. Postal Service, with whom we’re on regularly, or county clerks or other counterparts,” Murphy said.

On Wednesday, Murphy declined to say whether he believed glitches with the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) and automated voter registration data collection conducted by the Motor Vehicle Commission would disenfranchise some primary voters.

The governor said then that he was not aware of specific problems, though the New Jersey Globe had asked him about those same issues on previous occasions and informed his staff about the same.

Since the state conducted its first all-vote-by-mail races in May, the New Jersey Globe has reported frequent crashes that plague the SRVS and other issues that led to voters’ apartment numbers being left off of ballots or saw some voters receive duplicate ballots following a name change, among others problems that have hampered election officials’ ability to get ballots out.

Murphy has often eschewed public comment on the technical problems, though he has acknowledged the Postal Service’s role in ballot delivery delays that disenfranchised hundreds of voters in the May races.

“Matt’s been back and forth extensively with the U.S. Postal Service,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve been going to them with very specific cases when we hear them, so the more specifics the better.”

The SVRS crashes have, in some cases, prevented county clerks from filling vote-by-mail applications returned by the state’s unaffiliated voters.

Some counties faced backlogs of up to five days ahead of the June 30 deadline to mail a VBM application. The business-hour crashes were so severe that state Division of Elections director Robert Giles told election officials to temporarily stop processing ballot applications.

Voters who do not receive their mail-in ballots can still vote provisionally at a reduced number of in-person polling places, though Murphy said he’d prefer those who can vote by mail do so.

“There are a lot of folks on the ballot. I don’t care who you vote for. I don’t care what party you’re in, but vote, and my strong request is that you vote by mail,” he said. “That means you can exercise your democratic right, which all of us deserve, and secondly, you can do it in a way that best preserves your public and your personal health.”

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