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

Murphy undecided on private mail carriers, weekend work as primary nears

Election officials face backlogs, technical difficulties filling mail-in ballot applications

By Nikita Biryukov, June 29 2020 4:23 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy hasn’t decided whether to use private mail carriers or force election officials to work through the July 4 weekend to ensure voters will receive their mail-in ballots as primary campaigns enter their final week.

“I don’t know that FedEx is going to be involved, and I have not made any decision on making people work on July 3rd and 4th, so I don’t have any crisp answers,” Murphy said during Monday’s COVID-19 briefing.

Technical glitches have become a major hurdle for election officials attempting to send mail-in ballots to unaffiliated voters who have returned vote-by-mail applications.

The Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS), which election officials must use to fulfill a VBM application, is crashing frequently, preventing officials from processing applications.

The backlog has grown to between four and five days, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

Put simply, it’s possible those voters won’t get a ballot in time for the election, though Murphy did not rule out approaching FedEx or another guaranteed overnight delivery platform to ensure ballots reached voters before election day.

The governor said he was not aware of a glitch at the Motor Vehicle Commission that was causing voters to be assigned to the incorrect political party.

“I’ve got literally no insight on this,” he said.

The New Jersey Globe asked the governor about the same issue on June 24 and sent members of his communications staff articles on this issue and others later that day.

Voters who had their party affiliation changed can still cast a provisional ballot, election officials say, but such ballots are unlikely to be counted absent a court order.

SVRS has been plagued by other issues since New Jersey held its first all-VBM races in May.

A separate glitch caused some ballots’ mailing labels to not include voters’ apartment numbers, potentially making those ballots undeliverable. The issue was present in May but appears to have persisted despite warnings to the state’s top election officials.

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.

Those issues compound with concerns about the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to avoid weeks-long delivery delays that disenfranchised some voters ahead of the May races.

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