County Clerk Jeff Parrott is advising residents that a new law signed by Governor Phil Murphy in August of 2018 dramatically changed the Vote by Mail rules in New Jersey. These changes have already impacted our elections.
The new law mandates that all voters who voted by mail in the 2016 General Election be sent a Mail-In Ballot for all future elections, even if they do not request one. All of these 2016 Mail-In Ballot voters were sent a letter from the County Clerk’s Office in September 2018 advising of this change, along with a form they could sign to “opt out” of receiving mail-in ballots if they didn’t want them.
“As election officials, we take voting very seriously, and we’ve always done everything in our power to ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to vote – and importantly, gets to vote in the manner he or she desires.” The fact that the new law assigned a certain group of people to vote only by mail is confusing to voters, and that confusion may follow voters all the way to the polls on Election Day – because any voter who receives a Mail-In Ballot will not be permitted to vote on a voting machine on Election Day.
As a matter of convenience, the Clerk recommends that voters who receive a mail-in ballot go ahead and vote that ballot if they are planning to vote in the current election cycle. If they go to their polling place they will be issued a provisional ballot, which is the same paper ballot they were mailed.
Other changes contained in the new law involve how a voter can apply for a Mail-In Ballot. Before the change in the law, a voter had three options on the application. The voter could opt for receiving a Mail-In Ballot for one election, all elections in one calendar year, and all future general elections. Now, a voter has only two options for voting by mail. A voter can request a Mail-In Ballot for one election or for all elections every year until the voter opts out in writing.
The Clerk also wants voters to know that his office is not responsible for the numerous vote-by-mail applications that have been arriving in voters’ mailboxes. Voters have complained to the Clerk for wasting their tax dollars on preprinted forms, with some households receiving anywhere from two to seven vote-by-mail applications preceding an election. But the mailings come from candidates and voter participation groups that have taken it upon themselves to target Sussex County voters for vote-by-mail.
“Our office is happy to mail applications to voters who ask for them, but we never spend taxpayer dollars soliciting residents to vote by mail,” said Parrott, “We give voters their options and let them decide how they want to vote.”
If you have any questions about the Vote by Mail process, please contact the County Clerk’s Election Division at 973-579-0900, ext. 1507.