The failure to deliver 33 voting machines in predominately Black wards of Newark before the polls opened on Tuesday have led 20 voting rights advocacy groups and grass roots organizations to call for a thorough investigation into a delay.
The New Jersey Globe first reported on the morning of the primary that machines had been late in arriving and that Essex County Superintendent of Elections Patty Spango was aware of the delays before Election Day.
Among the voters effected by the undelivered machines was Ryan Haygood, the president of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Haygood arrived at his polling place at 7:30 AM – 90 minutes after voting opened – to find out that there were no voting machines.
“I was told to return later and not offered a provisional ballot until I proactively requested one,” Haygood said. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have encountered voting obstacles in Newark. Running elections is a massive endeavor, but we must do better.”
According to the organizations that signed the letter to Spango, multiple polling places in Newark did not open at 6 AM in the November 2020 general election, “once again forcing voters in the city to accommodate for these issues.”
“Voters in much of the rest of Essex County do not encounter these issues, but voters in Newark – the state’s largest city and a majority Black city – regularly do,” the letter said. “The unfortunate reality is that the election issues in Essex County are disproportionately felt by Black and Brown voters in Newark.”
The New Jersey Globe has subsequently learned that Spango knew about the delays on Saturday, June 5, but that was not publicly reported. Voting machines are typically delivered by the Friday before the election and not at the last minute on the following Monday.
Spango, a former West Orange Council President and Democratic municipal chair, assumed the top county election post earlier this year.
In a statement on Tuesday, Spango acknowledged the delays.
The Newark-based Brantley Bros. Moving & Storage company was hired to deliver voting machines from the county election warehouse in Belleville to polling locations across Essex County.
The company decided to start with locations furthest away from their location and work their way back to Newark. They ended up last night with 33 undelivered machines before drivers went home and resumed their deliveries after 6 AM.
Isaac (Ike) King, the owner of Brantley Bros., told the New Jersey Globe that when his trucks arrived at some locations, they were closed. He also said that the Spango’s office had provided them with incorrect contact information in some cases.
King acknowledged that two voting machines remained on his truck overnight and were not returned to the voting machine warehouse.
“Counties like Essex like to pride themselves on holding successful elections, and in many ways that is true. But for an election to be truly successful it must provide equal access to the ballot to all voters, and, unfortunately, that has not been the case,” said Henal Patel, director of the Democracy and Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Voters in suburban Essex County generally do not encounter the same issues that voters in Newark – the state’s largest and a majority Black city – regularly do. The unfortunate reality is that election issues in Essex County are disproportionately felt by Black and Brown voters.”
The other organizations that signed the letter were: Abbott Leadership Institute; All of Us or None-Northern NJ; Brick City Peace Collective; CAIR New Jersey; Delaware-New Jersey National Lawyers Guild; Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; League of Women Voters of New Jersey; Muslim League of Voters; NAACP Newark NJ; New Jersey Institute for Social Justice; New Jersey League of Conservation Voters; Newark Anti-Violence Coalition; NJ 11th for Change; NJ Working Families; Office of Violence Prevention; Our Revolution Essex; Project Ready; Returning Citizens Cooperative; Salvation and Social Justice; and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.