‘This is Not a Normal Election Year’

Insider NJ presents the week's winners and losers in New Jersey's political news during the week of the May 14 nonpartisan elections.

Why are many Republicans so opposed to voting-by-mail?

After all, it is easier to vote by mail and you’d think a political party would want to make things easier for its supporters. And this should be especially true if, as studies suggest, your core voters skew older than Democratic supporters.

Perhaps not. The all-Republican Morris County freeholders this week endorsed in-person voting, suggesting outside polling places and spreading out voting over a few days. Give them credit for creativity.

Of course, to ask the question about GOP opposition, is to answer it. They’re concerned about chicanery.

But there is scant evidence such antics are successful.

No less a leading Republican than the president has pointed to Paterson. The so-called Silk City also came up today during Phil Murphy’s briefing about limiting in-person voting this fall.

Paterson has municipal elections in May and after this year’s vote, four people, including a city councilman, were charged by the state with voter fraud related to the mail-in ballot election. The charges are still pending.

Clearly, Republicans can say, “Look what happened in Paterson.”

Murphy turned it around, arguing that the Paterson experience actually supports his voting plan for the fall. That’s because the alleged perpetrators of the fraud didn’t get away with it.

“If you screw around, you will be prosecuted,” the governor said.

Still, in announcing the plan today, Murphy emphasized that it’s not going to be a total vote-by-mail election and that people will still have a choice.

Here are the details:

Every voter will receive a ballot the week beginning Oct. 5, which is four weeks before Election Day. This was the case during the primary, but things will be less complicated this time around. In the general election, county clerks don’t need to be concerned with “Republican” or “Democratic” ballots. Or with handling unaffiliated voters who want to declare a party preference.

The governor said it was the primary experience that convinced him to essentially follow the same pattern with the general.

Tahesha Way, the secretary of state, said about 600,000 people already regularly vote by mail. She said there were a few “hiccups” with the primary, but in general, things went well.

People getting ballots can mail them in by Nov. 3, but they also have other options.

They can bring them to special “lock boxes” that will be monitored by around the clock surveillance cameras. The governor said there will be at least 10 such boxes in every county. Voters also can hand-deliver completed ballots to poll workers.

And if voters don’t like any of those options, they can still vote in-person on Election Day. As was the case with the primary, there will be at least one in-person polling place in every municipality.

There was some talk about enlisting such private companies as FedEx or UPS to deliver ballots, especially with the funding controversy involving the U.S. Postal Service.

To this, Murphy made two points. He said it was “beyond repugnant” that the president has been opposing money for the post office. The other point was that he’s confident the Post Office will be able to do its job in New Jersey.

“We have really kicked the tires on this,” the governor said, adding that he’s feeling good about the plan.

But he was still a bit wistful in talking about that traditional trip to the polls, which is an Election Day rite for politicians of all stripes.

“This is not a normal election year,” the governor acknowledged. .

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