Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to announce plans for an all vote-by-mail primary election on July 7, but with options for limited in-person voting today, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Counties will establish regional voting locations, possibly one polling place in each municipality and more in larger cities, to accommodate provisional ballot voting. No voting machines will be used.
Registered Democrats and Republicans will automatically receive VBM ballots. New Jersey’s 2,404,558 unaffiliated voters will receive an application to receive a mail-in ballot.
Unaffiliated voters who don’t opt in to receiving a VBM ballot could still participate in the primary election by appearing at one of the limited polling sites on July 7 and voting by provisional ballot.
Democrats and Republicans could also ignore their mail-in ballot and vote provisionally.
The Globe first reported last month that Murphy was considering a hybrid primary election as part of his search for a middle ground to reduce the number of New Jerseyans going to the polls during the coronavirus pandemic.
Election officials have become increasingly concerned about a shortage of election day poll workers, and about securing enough facilities for in-person voting.
Murphy faced pushback from African American leaders who maintain that an all-VBM election creates opportunities for depressed voter turnout and increased voter fraud in low-income communities.
A May 12 election in more than 30 municipalities was widely as a test of an all-VBM election.
In some places, vote-by-mail ballots led to higher turnout in local elections. But the quickly-assembled all-VBM elections also led to possible incidents of fraud, higher instances of ballot rejections by county election officials, and claims that low-income voters had challenges in the delivery of their ballots by letter carriers.
Reports of massive delays in the delivery and return of ballots by the U.S. Postal Service are complicating several close elections. In some cases, the post office is taking more than a week for a ballot to be returned after it was put in the mail, multiple sources say.
The deadly coronavirus pandemic forced candidates to cease in-person campaigning, including canvassing and attending local events, and adjust their campaigns strategies.
POLITICO first reported that Murphy’s announcement would be today, with details of the governor’s plan.