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New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way. (Photo: State of New Jersey.)

State exploring use of federal funds for all-VBM elections

$10.9 million in Help Americans Vote Act money can be used for reprinting, other expenses

By Nikita Biryukov, March 19 2020 2:59 pm

State officials are considering using federal funds to reimburse county clerks for the reprinting of ballots for rescheduled March and April elections and for expenses associated with printing mail-in ballots for elections that will be conducted entirely through the post.

“At this present time, our office is diligently exploring the utilization of perhaps our federal funds that we received — the HAVA dollars — and once we can get more of an answer to that, we could advise everyone accordingly,” Secretary of State Tahesha Way said, referring to money made available under the Help Americans Vote Act of 2002.

New Jersey received a little more than $10.9 million under the program this year.

Guidance released by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which administers HAVA, says funds awarded under the program can be used for “resources to meet an unanticipated increased demand for mail ballots due to self-isolation and quarantine in response to COVID-19, and temporary staff to process the increased absentee ballot demand.”

The guidance explicitly says HAVA funds can be used for costs associated with the reprinting of ballots, though whether the money can go to other printing expenses associated with New Jersey’s planned all-mail May election.

The funds could not be used for vote by mail ballots that states would have sent out anyway.

Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday announced that March special elections and April school board elections would take place on May 12, the day of the state’s non-partisan municipal races.

Each of those elections will be conducted entirely through the post.

Way said it’s possible that the state could cut some costs by moving to all-vote-by-mail elections.

“I could also note that moving to vote by amil only, there are some cost savings to the counties and the locals because there won’t be any cause for let’s say two things: polling places and also the poll workers,” she said. “Poll workers, I believe, they receive $200 a day for their work, and we have in our repertoire an estimated 26,000 statewide poll workers.”

That adds up to about $5.2 million, but it’s not clear yet whether poll workers who signed up to work on pre-primary elections in the state are still being paid.

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