At least three municipalities that held elections last weeks claim that the U.S. Postal Service did not complete their entire routes last Tuesday, potentially leaving some local election ballots in the mailbox overnight.
Since only ballots postmarked by 8 PM on election day will be counted, those votes won’t be counted.
As New Jersey prepares to hold a primary election conducted mostly through vote-by-mail ballots, there is fear that the post office is unprepared to handle as many as 6.1 million ballots and official notices that could move through their system in advance of the July 7 voting.
More than a dozen election officials, candidates and political operatives who spoke with the New Jersey Globe voiced concerns that the post office was responsible for glitches in the May 12 non-partisan elections that effected just 33 of the state’s 565 municipalities that will cast VBM ballots in the primary.
“My constituents are being disenfranchised,” one elected official told the Globe. “They’re entitled to have their votes count.”
Postal officials across the U.S. have acknowledged operational delays related to COVID-19.
Complicated postal zones also contribute to the issue.
Ballots dropped in Belleville are sent to the postal processing center in Kearny before heading to the Board of Elections offices in Newark. Orange ballots make a pit stop in Jersey City before heading back into Essex County.
“We don’t know if a ballot mailed at noon on election day is being picked up by the post office that day or the next,” an election official explained. “And we don’t know if a ballot being picked up on Tuesday is going to get stamped by the post office on the same day. It’s all fucked up.”
The Globe has tracked some VBMs cast by elected officials in the May 12 election and found at least three cases where ballots took more than a week to arrive at the board of elections. In one case, an official and their spouse mailed their ballots at the same time. One took nearly two weeks to arrive and the other never did.
There are also complaints that replacement ballots requested by voters took more than a week to be delivered.
Some ballots are being rejected due to post office error.
In West Amwell, the only partisan local race held last week, 14% of the 48-hour ballots that arrived after the Tuesday election had no postmark. Since election officials could not determine if they were mailed before 8 PM Tuesday, they were all invalidated.
“The post office can’t even get that right?” a third official asked when told about the lack of postmarks. “And we’re trusting them for a statewide election?
The May VBM election also included contentions that expedited, red-tagged political mail was delayed, and that large quantities of ballots were being left in bins in public areas of apartment buildings instead of being placed in individual mailboxes.
In Paterson and Irvington, there are allegations that unattended vote-by-mail ballots might have enabled ballot tampering.