Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy has signed an executive order creating a modified vote-by-mail (VBM) election for the Nov. 3 general election.
The order suspends the sending of sample ballots and requires that each county’s elections officials send VBM ballots with pre-paid postage to all active registered voters for the general election.
“COVID-19 has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives, from our health and safety to how we participate in our democracy,” said Murphy. “This virus continues to threaten public health, and with today’s announcement, we are ensuring that New Jersey voters do not have to make a decision between exercising their right to vote and protecting their well-being.”
Every voter will have the option to either return their ballot through a secure drop box or turn in their ballot at a polling location on Election Day. Officials are working with the Department of State to implement a new online voter registration system where New Jersey residents will have the opportunity to register to vote. The online system will launch on Sept. 4.
To address the influx of VBM ballots, the executive order also extends the deadline to allow ballots being returned through the United States Postal Service with a postmark on or before Nov. 3 to be counted as a valid ballot by the County Clerk, if received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 10. Ballots without a postmark that are received by the county boards of elections within 48 hours of the closing of polls on Nov. 3rd shall be considered valid.
“Every voter deserves to participate in free, fair, and safe elections,” said Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “By sending every New Jersey voter their ballot in the mail, we are protecting the health of voters, elections workers, and our democracy.”
There will be at least one polling place in each municipality and a minimum of 50% of polling places in each county to provide New Jersey voters with access to in-person voting opportunities, including accommodations for voters with disabilities. All public schools will close for in-person instruction on Nov. 3 to allow counties to use their buildings as polling locations, if necessary.
Pres. Donald Trump has been critical of voting by mail and has called out New Jersey for sending ballots by mail. Without any evidence, he suggests voting by mail will result in widespread fraud.