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

Murphy won’t push counties to stop buying voting machines

Vote by mail order ‘doesn’t mean we’re past the days of machine voting,’ governor says

By Nikita Biryukov, September 08 2020 2:18 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy isn’t pushing counties to halt purchases of new voting machines that won’t see use until at least next year.

“Do I have some high degree of confidence that we’ll get back to using machines to vote? Absolutely,” Murphy said. “I personally have voted by mail over the years. I think it’s an easy, straightforward way to cast your vote that adds to democracy, but that doesn’t mean we’re past the days of machine voting.”

Such machines can cost as much as $5,000 per unit, and replacing the state’s supply of aging machines could cost as much as $63.5 million, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Essex County in January awarded a firm with a $3.8 million contract for new voting machines that may be left unused well into 2021 if the virus makes a resurgence in New Jersey.

“I don’t know the specifics of the machines that are on order by county. Those are not cheap, so obviously financial considerations are also a part of this,” Murphy said. “We’re not in a forever and always moment here, please god.”

A series of orders Murphy issued since March have put machine voting into hibernation in the state. July’s primaries and a string of local races held in April were conducted almost entirely using mail-in ballots.

Though in-person voting was available during the primary and will be available during the general election, those votes will be cast using provisional paper ballots.

Only residents with disabilities who need to use an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant voting machine will be able to cast their ballots that way.

Those policy shifts have seen voter turnout swell, particularly at a local level. In some towns with competitive races for municipal office this year, turnout effectively doubled as a result of the governor’s vote-by-mail order.

Despite that, Murphy said he hadn’t moved to make those changes permanent

“I’ve had no conversations on that — unless you have with folks — regarding vote by mail regarding municipal elections, so there’s nothing to add there,” he said.

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