Mail-in ballot errors, shenanigans threaten integrity of N.J. primary election

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – A remarkable 1-in-10 New Jersey ballots weren’t counted in May’s local vote-by-mail elections. The problems weren’t isolated to one or two towns, and the culprits appeared to range from carrier error to computer problems. There’s also no indication that matters have improved much ahead of July 7th’s statewide primary election as Bernardsville Republicans recently found out when 500-700 of them received Democrat ballots.

The plight of Mercer County Republicans remains an especially glaring example.

As of June 17th, few if any Republicans in the state’s capital county had returned their ballots according to publicly-available information. 62 pages of Democrat VBM returns and three returned Republican ballots suggested Democrat ballots went out first.

Mercer GOP Chairwoman Lisa Richford told Save Jersey she spoke to Republican in her county and wasn’t reassured. 

“The current tally of returned ballots in Mercer county reveals a trend that should concern people of all parties,” Richford said on Friday. “Thousands of ballots from Democrats have been returned, with just three from Republicans. Explanations from the Mercer County Clerk have been insufficient and in conflict with reality. There’s simply no explanation for this aside from the prioritization of Democrat ballots over Republican ballots.”

Democrat officials deny any nefarious intent, blaming a third-party vendor.

In a Monday follow up, Richford reported that ballots had begun to hit, but she also said that “scanners at the Post Offices are reading the ballot envelopes wrong and are sending the completed ballots back to the Constituent after they mailed it in!” The county website hasn’t been updated yet.

The problem goes deeper than inconvenience.

“Shaken faith in our electoral process is a threat to our entire system of government,” Richford warned Save Jersey last week. “Mercer county needs to immediately explain how they chose to prioritize Democrat ballots over Republican ballots, and Governor Murphy needs to admit failure and commit today to not holding an all-mail general election. Anything less than that would further undermine Mercer County residents faith in fair elections in our county.”

Concerned voters don’t have many options. Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 144 mandates an almost exclusively-remote election with most towns having only a small fraction of its usual compliment of open polling stations.