Gov. Phil Murphy will extend the window for vote-by-mail ballots to arrive seven days after the July 7 primary election and still be counted, according to sources familiar with the governor’s plan.
New Jersey law currently requires election officials to count ballots that arrive at the county Board of Elections offices up to two days after the election as long as they are postmarked before the polls close.
The move follows complaints that the U.S. Postal Service was slow to deliver VBM ballots for the May 12 elections that involved more than 30 municipalities.
In Essex County, thousands of ballots in all-VBM races in six municipalities have arrived since the last count on Tuesday evening.
Murphy is planning to include this provision in an executive order he will sign today creating a hybrid primary election that will automatically send VBM ballots to all registered Democrats and Republicans and an application for the state’s 2.4 million unaffiliated voters to receive a primary election ballot by mail if they wish to participate in one of the primary elections.
This means winners of the primary election won’t be certified until July 14 at the earliest.
It’s not immediately clear if the Murphy’s order will also push back filing deadlines for legal challenges to the primary election results.
The extension will almost certainly delay the process to select delegates to the 2020 Democratic National Convention, where a slate supported former candidate Bernie Sanders is still competing for a share of the New Jersey delegation to bolster their numbers if there are votes on party platform issues.
Sanders, who remains on the July 7 New Jersey primary ballot despite his endorsement of presumptive nominee Joe Biden, would be entitled to delegates based on the percentage of vote he receives.
The extension of the window to allow VBM votes to be counted by five extra days – and possible challenges to the votes – will move the meeting of the Democratic State Committee to select 42 At-Large and Party Leaders and Elected Officials delegates back to at least July 18.