Home>Articles>Atlantic County VBM ballots are safe, but flawed

Atlantic County Board of Elections Chair Evelynn S. Caterson

Atlantic County VBM ballots are safe, but flawed

Returned ballots kept in a cell at the old county jail

By David Wildstein, October 27 2019 4:00 pm

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There doesn’t seem to be a problem with the security of vote-by-mail ballots in Atlantic County.

The Board of Elections office is located at the old county jail building.  Ballots are locked inside carts that are rolled into an old jail cell.  Each cell is locked and requires two keys to get inside; Democrats and Republicans each have one of the keys.

And as a former jail, the walls are said to be four feet thick.  That means cell phones and other electronic devices won’t work inside, election officials told the New Jersey Globe.

While the ballots are safe, there are other complications surrounding vote-by-mail ballots cast in Atlantic County.

According to a report in The Press of Atlantic City, bar codes were improperly printed by County Clerk Edward McGettigan’s office on about half the VBM ballots mailed out.  That means the ballots cannot be tabulated by machine and that each one must be manually checked by election board worker – and then confirmed by someone from the opposite party.

In the 2nd district, which includes all but six Atlantic County municipalities, 14,331 vote-by-mail ballots were sent out.  As of Friday morning, 4,514 were returned so far – 31.5% of those mailed out.

Additionally, McGettigan printed ballots in Buena Vista Township without the bubble needed for a voter to fill in for the optical scanner to read it.

Former Absecon Councilwoman Evelynn S. Caterson, a Republican who chairs the board of Elections, told the Globe that the state’s new VBM law is causing problems.

“Everyone is going crazy trying to implement a law that was just passed without any notice,” Caterson said.

According to Caterson, election workers can tell from the weight of the returned ballot envelopes that some are more likely to include an opt-out from automatic VBM status than a ballot.

Voters who received a mail-in ballot and then attempt to vote at their polling location will need to cast a provisional ballot.

Democrats are running ahead of Republicans on VBM ballots in the potentially competitive 2nd district, where incumbent Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) and John Armato (D-Buena Vista Township) face challenges from Freeholder John Risley and Brigantine Mayor Phil Guenther.

Of the ballots returned, 52% are from Democrats and 33% from Republicans.

Nearly half (49.6%) of the ballots mailed were sent to Democrats and 24.8% to Republicans.

In the 2nd district, 35.4% of voters are registered as Democrats and 24.9% are Republicans.

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