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Gov. Phil Murphy. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor.

Murphy’s three primary election choices

Narrow window to make a decision, election officials say

By David Wildstein, March 30 2020 10:38 am

Several election officials told the New Jersey Globe this weekend that they believe Gov. Phil Murphy has a short window to decide whether the June 2 primary election will be entirely through vote-by-mail ballots.

These election officials and others have suggested that it will take several weeks to prepare for an all-VBM primary, including a massive amount of ballot and envelope printing.

Murphy has three options:

* Cross your fingers and hope for the best: allow the primary to go on as planned, with no changes.  That means polling locations open throughout the state on June 2 and voters will be able to leave their homes and congregate by then.  It also assumes election officials can still get poll workers trained and working, despite the advanced ages of that particular workforce.  Murphy would also need to be certain that polling locations are still available, like Lucas Ford in Burlington City, where Ward 3, District 2 votes in their showroom.

* Go to an all-VBM primary: 100% of votes would be cast through mail-in ballots, with all polling locations closed.  This would mean mailing more than 6 million ballots by early May, including almost 2.4 million ballots to unaffiliated (aka independent) voters who would receive ballots for both primaries, if they decided they want to participate in one of them.

* Postpone the primary: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has moved the New York presidential primary from April 28 to June 23.  Murphy could still go the all-VBM route, but give elections officials – and himself – more time to work out the details.

A fourth option might be untenable for the governor: move the primary election to September and defer the campaign process until after the current health crisis.  If he went that way, New Jersey would lose its delegates to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, something that would only matter if the race between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders isn’t already decided.

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