Two bills that changes some vote-by-mail and early voting procedures could compromise the privacy of some voters, a bipartisan coalition of eighteen county clerks said on Tuesday.
The county clerks say that a requirement to report VBM and early voting election results by district makes it to easy to see how a single ballot was cast in a low turnout election, especially since state law requires the public disclosure of early voters by noon of the following day.
“Voters believe they are casting their ballots in secret and have every right to believe their vote will not be exposed to anyone other than themselves,” the county clerks said in a letter to lawmakers. We are very concerned about a Voter’s privacy being compromised.”
One example offered was an early vote cast by Rep. Tom Malinowski, who was the only Democrat in his East Amwell voting district.
“The legislature and elected officials throughout the state have dedicated time and effort over the years to provide and expand voter rights,” stated the clerks. “In providing those rights we have been diligent to ensure the integrity of the election and enact secure procedures with checks and balances that convey confidence to our voters in every election. If district reporting is required and one Voter’s vote is exposed, all the time and effort will have been for naught.”
According to the county clerks language included in the bills to shield a voter’ privacy “fails to provide adequate protection.”
The bill, introduced in March, has already faced a series of amendments to protect voter privacy, including authority to county election boards to redline results if they might identify how someone voted. The bill also gives the New Jersey Secretary of State eighteen months to determine an implementation plan to full protect voter privacy.
The signatories of the letter were: Scott Colabella (R-Ocean); Paula Sollami Covello (D-Mercer); Dale Cross (R-Salem); Joseph Giralo (R-Atlantic); Ann Grossi (R-Morris); Christine Hanlon (R-Monmouth); James Hogan (D-Gloucester); John Hogan (D-Bergen); Holly Mackey (R-Warren); Junior Maldonado (D-Hudson); Mary Melfi (R-Hunterdon); Jeffrey Parrott (R-Sussex); Steve Peter (D-Somerset); Joanne Rajoppi (D-Union); Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland); Joe Ripa (D-Camden); Rita Rothberg (R-Cape May); and Joanne Schwartz (D-Burlington).
The 2020 election was conducted primarily through vote-by-mail ballots as a result of COVID-19, but voters requiring special assistance voted by machine on Election Day. In some cases, where there was just one special assistance voter in a municipality, the choice of the voter was compromised. The New Jersey Globe declined to identify the names of those voters.