By: Jaina Louise Winston, Writer / Follow South Jersey Community Resources Intern
TRENTON, N.J. — As one of the most important dates in the United States quickly approaches, New Jersey officials are actively making decisions to ensure the safety of New Jersey citizens while maintaining efficiency for this year’s election. Recently, Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order to protect public health by issuing mail-in ballots to all voters.
For the General Election on November 3, registered voters will be able to cast their votes through a modified vote-by-mail method. Every voter has the option to either deposit their vote in a secure dropbox or turn in their ballot at a polling station on Election Day. The executive order will also require a minimum of at least one polling place in each municipality. In addition, a minimum of 50% of polling places in each county will provide New Jersey voters with access to in-person voting opportunities, including accommodations for voters with disabilities.
“COVID-19 had impacted nearly every aspect of our lives, from our health and safety to how we participate in our democracy,” Gov. Murphy said in a press release. “This virus continues to threaten public health, and with today’s announcement, we are ensuring that New Jersey voters do not have to make a decision between exercising their right to vote and protecting their well-being.”
While the mail-in ballots are in place to minimize COVID-19 exposure, some New Jersey officials are concerned with the efficacy of mail-in voting. Congressman Jeff Van Drew vocalized his concerns in a statement released on August 14.
“Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that in-person voting can be done safely,” he said. “Mail-in voting should be a part of a strategy to ensure safety, but allowing for a singular process that is time-consuming, unreliable and creates the potential for fraud is completely unacceptable.”
Despite Van Drew’s position on the issue, election fraud is still very unlikely.
Similar to Congressman Van Drew, Senator Michael Testa believes voting exclusively by mail will cause unnecessary confusion and chaos amidst voters.
“If our experience with the July vote-by-mail primary is any guide, New Jersey isn’t ready to pull off an election of such consequence by mail in a way that will ensure that every voter’s ballot is properly counted,” Senator Testa said. “Gov. Murphy’s plan to have everyone vote by mail will create unnecessary confusion in the upcoming general election when ballots will be cast for offices ranging from President of the United States to town council.”
Many New Jersey residents may share the same concerns as Congressman Van Drew and Senator Testa, but this comes as no surprise to Gov. Murphy. In several statements, Murphy explained his plans to protect and secure the ballots during the elections. The executive order will extend the deadline to allow the ballots being returned through the postal service with a postmark on or before November 3. Murphy, as well as other New Jersey officials, wanted to ensure that voters would be able to vote in the most efficient way possible.
“Every voter deserves to participate in free, fair, and safe elections,” said NJ Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “By sending every New Jersey voter their ballot in the mail, we are protecting the health of voters, elections workers, and our democracy.”
It is encouraged that all registered voters vote in all the upcoming elections. To find out when and how voting ballots will be cast, check out Bridgeton’s official website.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.