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State Sen. Vin Gopal. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Gopal plans bills to hasten mail-in ballot counts

Some counties still tallying results more than two weeks after election

By Nikita Biryukov, November 19 2020 1:20 pm

State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) will introduce bills to quicken New Jersey’s counting of mail-in ballots, he announced Thursday.

“Our main goal is to ensure each county has the technology they need to provide safe, secure, and efficient vote-by-mail counting methods,” Gopal said. “Establishing funding for these counties is a positive step towards making sure each board of elections is well equipped to handle vote-by-mail ballots in the years to come if a voter chooses to use that method.”

The announcement comes as some counties are still tallying ballots cast in the Nov. 3 election more than two weeks after its conclusion.

One of the planned bills would require New Jersey’s State Department to create a gran program to fund improvements for county election boards. That money could go to high-speed ballot counting machines.

Some counties already have such machines. Essex County, for example, has equipment that can tally 40,000 ballots per hour, but other counties can’t tally nearly as many votes.

The issue was clear in this year’s mostly mail general election. Hunterdon County continued to release new tallies on Thursday, just a day before the deadline to certify election results.

During the state’s primaries, which were also administered mostly through the mail, judge granted some counties a one-week extension to the certification deadline because officials were unable to complete timely counts.

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and State Sen. Michael Testa (R-Vineland) last week urged Cumberland County’s Freeholder Board to probe ballot counting procedures they said unacceptably delayed results there.

Gopal’s other bill would create a vote-by-mail task force meant to spot and fix deficiencies in the state’s counting process.

“Should constituents choose to vote-by-mail in future elections, we need to have a system in place that will create a quicker vote count method than the one we currently have set up in the state of New Jersey,” Gopal said. “Establishing this Vote-By-Mail Task Force will help identify what is needed to begin the process of establishing a quicker vote count for future elections.”

The Monmouth Democrat said he intended to introduce the bills sometime in the coming weeks.

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