A draft letter by a group of bipartisan constitutional officers, including Hunterdon County Clerk Mary
Melfi (R) and Somerset County Clerk Steve Peter (D) offers Governor Phil Murphy a roadmap for the COVID-19 era July 7th primary election, namely a vote-by-mail and voting machines solution, NOT an all vote-by-mail (VBM) election like the May 12th nonpartisan cycle.
New Jersey anticipates official word from Murphy about the process for the coming summer elections as early as tomorrow.
“We are trying to work with him on a solution that protects the integrity of the election as well as the public safety. People the are uncomfortable at a polling place or [even not] can vote by mail [it is 4th of July week] and those that want to get out – can,” said Melfi.
“We are seeking not to be confrontational, but cooperative on the planning of the Primary Election,” said Peter. “At the end of the day, this is going to be on our plate, and we’d like to have some say as to what’s on the buffet.”
The clerks shared the draft letter with InsiderNJ, reprinted below:
Dear Governor Murphy:
As you, and State Officials review and discuss various options as to the form of the July 7th Primary Election we feel it is imperative as elected or appointed County Election Officials that we encourage you to adopt the recommendations listed in this letter in your upcoming Executive Order. In doing so please realize that the Primary is nine weeks from today. No matter what option you mandate for the Primary, our offices basically have 6-7 weeks to implement a Statewide election (please refer to attached calendar for timeline). Understanding this stringent timeline to program, proof, print, train and process materials we also urge you to provide us with your directive this week.
It is the intent, and sole objective of all of us to provide New Jersey registered voters a secure, safe and accessible voting process in the upcoming Primary. In ensuring that we meet this objective successfully it is vital that the input of the County Election officials be included in your deliberations.
In the end, it is the County Clerks and Boards of Elections that must administer and implement the procedures that are outlined in your Executive Order with regard to the Primary Election. We respectfully submit to you that we are the individuals that have the vast knowledge, experience and background in administering elections.
As such, we submit the following recommendations:
- Conduct the Primary in the form of Vote by Mail & Voting Machines at Polling Places on Election Day.
- Mandate that State send all registered voters a Vote by Mail application. Rather than mailing ballots to all voters (which would be extremely costly and difficult to implement in a short time frame for both Postal and election officials).
- Consolidate Polling Places. This will assist Election Officials in efforts to secure fewer polling sites as well as reduce the number of poll workers and sites due to the virus. This worked well during Superstorm Sandy and other elections – but will still provide an alternative for voters who desire to cast their ballot in person on a Voting Machine at a polling place.
- Mandate that the Secretary of State implement a Statewide Program to Recruit College Students at a higher rate than the $200 per day throughout the State to serve as Poll Workers. This will supplement the dire need for additional poll workers due to the virus.Plus allow for online poll worker training
- When possible allow for Polling Locations to be in an outdoor location due to the virus.
- Ensure that masks, gloves, sanitary wipes are available for all election workers and voters.
The above recommendations are made to ensure that election officials and the US Postal Service can carry-out mandates that have been done in prior elections. We have dire concerns that if an all Vote by Mail Ballot Election would be mandated, in such a short time period to administer, that it would place serious stress on the election and postal officials which would not serve our democratic process well.
We hope you will be receptive to our recommendations and look forward to working with you in administering a successful Primary Election.