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The U.S. Postal Service is a critical partner as New Jersey steps up vote-by-mail elections. Photo by Rusty Clark.

Two weeks after election, Post Office still delivering Essex mail-in ballots

Montclair’s main post office closed four hours early on Election Day

By David Wildstein, May 27 2020 12:01 am

A vote-by-mail ballot postmarked in April 30 was delivered to the Essex County Board of Elections 27 days later on May 26 —  one of 1,941 votes in the May 12 election that won’t be counted.

Votes were still arriving on Tuesday, two weeks after Election Day, creating legitimate questions about New Jersey’s dependence of the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to deliver ballots in the statewide mostly vote-by-mail primary in July into question.

The post office delivered nearly 1,300 vote-by-mail ballots in Bergen County after the deadline.

In Montclair, where Sean Spiller was elected mayor by just 195 votes, 674 ballots arrived too late to be counted, according to voter data obtained by the New Jersey Globe.

The Globe has learned that the main Montclair Post Office closed their main branch at 3 PM on Election Day, four hours before their posted closing time, due to labor shortages connected the coronavirus pandemic.

Of those, 46 ballots were postmarked on time, May 12, but were not delivered to the county election board until May 15 – one day after the time they could be accepted.

Another 267 ballots were postmarked on May 13, the day after the election.

There is no way of knowing of those ballots were put in the mailboxes before the polls closed on election day or not.  It’s entirely possible that some of those ballots were placed in the mailbox by voters who didn’t expect the pot office to close four hours early that day.

In other instances, Globe sources have said, the U.S. Postal Service returned ballots to the senders rather than deliver them to the Board of Elections.  It’s not clear why that happened.

Either way, the postmarks and the delivery dates are all over the place.

Two ballots that the post office says were cast on May 12 didn’t arrive at the Newark election office until May 18, and other one postmarked on election day came in on May 19.

A total of 256 ballots have arrived with no postmark at all, offering no evidence to election officials as to when voters mailed their VBM ballots.  Those ballots won’t count.

Nutley has had 140 ballots returned since the count ended in a tie between incumbents Joseph Scarpelli and Mauro Tucci.  Since fierce local tradition gives the mayoralty to the commissioner candidate with the highest total votes, Scarpelli and Tucci have agreed to each serve two years as mayor.

There were at least seven votes cast and mailed on time that will never be counted.

Four ballots postmarked on Election Day, May 12, didn’t arrive at the Board of Elections until May 15 – too late to be counted.   Another ballot carried an April 30 postmark and two postmarked on May 11 made their way to the county office arrived on May 18.

Another 26 Nutley ballots came in with no postmark at all, making it impossible for election officials to determine if the votes were cast on time.

Weldon M. Montague III won an at-large seat on the Orange council by 17 votes over Edward Marable, but 222 additional votes – 22 without any postmarks at all — have come in since May 14 that won’t be counted.

Eight voted arrived on Tuesday, fourteen days after the election.  Postmarks ranged from May 16 to May 23.

Newark had 646 uncounted ballot,  Irvington had 183, and Belleville had 76.

Of the late-arriving Newark ballots, 269 show a postmark of May 13, the day after the election, and are recorded as arriving at the Hall of Records in Newark on May 15 after a 48-hour journey.

Officially, those ballots weren’t stamped by the Post Office until the day after the election, leaving their delivery two days later moot issue.

In total, 400 of the Newark ballots that didn’t arrive on time (62%) took more than two days to travel from Newark to Newark.  A total of 140 Newark residents didn’t have their votes counted because the post office didn’t date stamp their mail-in ballots.

The U.S. Postal Service did not immediately respond to an 8:13 PM email seeking comment.

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