COVID-19 Elections: An (Almost!) Fail-Safe System

Elections watcher Katz

ROXBURY – The large sign reading “Vote Here Today” outside town hall made everything look normal.

Not really.

This was the only polling place in town, mirroring the case around the state. Voters inside wore masks, as did poll workers. There were hand sanitizers and voters were given a pen – their own pen so to speak – to mark ballots. Those voting in person were those who neglected to vote by mail or for whatever reason, never got a ballot. The state’s goal was to mail ballots to every registered voter, but that’s just about impossible. Slip-ups are going to happen.

Here in Morris County, there is not all that much for which to vote,  meaning there are no contested local races of note. Nor are the congressional primaries – this is District 7 and 11 territory – contested.

But there may be something about casting a vote for president. Poll workers said turnout was pretty good, and to prove it, there was a steady stream of voters around noon.

One of those watching was Fred Katz, who has the imposing title of Master Poll Worker. And he even had a shirt with the county crest and his first name on it.

At 79, Katz’ political recollections date back to Newark in the 1950s. He’s a Democrat, which made him sort of an ugly duckling when he moved to Morris County decades ago. He said he ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate years ago against Robert Littell, a well-respected Republican from Sussex County.
Katz clearly likes politics and has retained his idealism.

“This is fascinating. People come out, all walks of life, all different ethnicities to exercise their right to vote,” he said.

Many have criticized what is supposed to be a vote-by-mail only election, notwithstanding what was happening in town hall. There have been well-publicized problems about Republicans in Bernardsville being sent Democratic Party ballots and alleged voter irregularities in the May, municipal election in Paterson.

Katz was more upbeat. He said state officials should be commended for putting the system together in such a short period of time. It is true that the pandemic didn’t really hit New Jersey until near the end of March.

If the November, general election has to be mostly mail-in ballots, the primary is a good trial run, he said.

As for fraud, Katz suggested that the New Jersey voting system is perhaps the best in the nation for eliminating the possibility of irregularities.

The reason is the state’s rather crazy system of overlapping responsibility among municipal and county agencies. Or in other words, people from different agencies and departments would need to get involved for any real chicanery to take place.

“The system is almost fail-safe,” he said optimistically.

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