Here’s an Election Day story right out of a Seinfeld episode.
More than 100 provisional ballots in Morris County have not been counted because they were unsealed, but several Election Day workers have told the New Jersey Globe that they watched voters lick the envelopes that provisional ballots are placed in.
Cheap glue on the envelopes might be to blame.
“The sealant on the provisional ballots didn’t always stick,” one poll worker said. “I told voters to lick it and press down firmly but sometimes it still didn’t stick.”
In Morris Township, where an incumbent township committeeman first elected in 1978 leads his Democratic challenger by just thirteen votes, 42 provisional ballots remain uncounted because they were not sealed.
Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi, whose office supplied the provisional ballots, said she was concerned by the number of votes that were not counted this year.
“I have an issue with it,” Grossi told the Globe. “It isn’t fair. I was very concerned that there were 42 ballots that were not closed.”
Grossi said she was considering envelopes with adhesive strips for future elections.
Ace Twill, the Berkeley Heights-based printing company that sold the envelopes to Morris County, initially promised to disclose the specifications of the adhesive used to keep them closed.
They have not done so.
“There’s nothing wrong with the glue,” insisted John Cooper, the co-owner of Ace Twill.
Cooper said that his company has other government printing contracts, but only prints provisional ballot envelopes for Morris.
Envelopes for provisional ballots are not standard sized. They are printed first and then converted envelopes – with the glue added – after printing.
In some cases, counties use old envelopes left over from previous elections. Some of these envelopes are stored for years in areas that are not climate controlled.
Grossi says that New Jersey’s new vote-by-mail law required additional provisional ballots to be printed.
Any voter who cast VBM ballots in 2016, 2017 and 2018 automatically received mail-in ballots for the 2019 election unless they specifically opted out.
If a voter received a VBM ballot and showed up at their polling location, they could not vote by machine – only by a provisional paper ballot.
Morris County election officials told the Globe that 506 provisional ballots were rejected this year.
Of those ballots, three signatures did not match, twelve were not registered voters, and 72 had already voted by mail.
One provisional ballot had been cast by a voter who had also voted by machine that day.
Issues with faulty envelopes have happened before.
In 2016, Austria had to postpone a presidential election after finding out that envelopes intended to hold ballots were defective.
Election officials in Washington State reported in 2018 that some vote-by-mail ballots were already sealed when they arrived at the homes of voters.
A spokesman for Kitsap County said that premature sealing occurred when moisture seeped through the enveloped and reacted to the adhesive glue.