UNION COUNTY, NJ Election day in Union County will look very different this year, with the election conducted primarily through vote-by-mail ballots throughout the state. Exactly who won each race may not be clear until Nov. 20, officials say. Here’s what you need to know:

What can I expect if I’m voting in-person on election day?

Most Union County residents voting in-person on election day will either vote using a provisional ballot or they can return their vote-by-mail ballots at a polling location. Some residents will be able to use a voting machine, but only if they are disabled and must use a voting machine compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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What's the difference between a provisional ballot and a vote-by-mail ballot?

According to Union County Board of Elections Administrator Nicole DiRado, not much.

“It says provisional ballot across the top,” she said. “Other than that, the ballot itself is exactly the same.” 

Provisional ballots will not be counted until Nov. 10 at the earliest, since provisional ballot counting will start once all mail-in ballots are collected. That’s because provisional ballots are investigated more, DiRado said, because all voters filling out a provisional ballot would have received a vote-by-mail ballot already. Voters cannot vote twice. 

Will every polling station have a physical polling machine?

Yes, but only a small number of people will be eligible to use them.

Only people with disabilities that require an ADA compliant machine will use them. Those voters will fill out a certification that states they have a disability which prevents them from using a vote-by-mail ballot.

In the June primary election, which was also largely done by mail, only 66 of 92,000 votes were done by voting machine, DiRado said. Some towns did not even have any votes cast by them.

When will residents know election results?

Result updates will be announced every night, but vote counting will be done until Nov. 20, DiRado said.

It will take longer than in typical election years. That is because mail-in ballots postmarked by or before election day and received by Nov. 10 will be counted. Then, provisional ballots will be counted after that. Then, if signatures for ballots do not match, cure ballots will be sent to residents, which are due back on Nov. 18. 

“I would absolutely not expect any meaningful election results on election night,” DiRado said. 

The final, official results of the 2020 General Election, including provisional ballots, will be posted after certification on Nov. 20, the Union County Clerk’s Office said.

What measures are being done to ensure transparency?

To ensure transparency, the County Board of Elections has live streams of Board of Elections workers sorting ballots and tabulation machines at work.

“Voting by mail is new for a lot of people. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around and there are many allegations of fraud in the process,” DiRado said. “The more transparent we can be, the more comfortable the voters will feel that we have run a fair election.”

No tabulating machines are running right now, but elections workers can be seen sorting the ballots, masks on and six feet apart from one another.

Access to the room where ballots are being sorted are also under intense security — building services cannot get into the room to change garbage cans, for example. 

How many ballots has Union County received so far?

Around 150,000 according to DiRado. Before the June primary election, just under 20,000 in the 2018 general election were done by mail.

If you are not voting in-person, you can: 

Send your ballot to the Union County Board of Elections by U.S. Postal Service (postage is prepaid).

Drop off your ballot in any Union County Board of Elections secure ballot drop-off box, located in all 21 municipalities. Any Union County voter can use any drop-off box in Union County, regardless of their residence. The boxes are available on a 24/7 basis until 8 p.m. Nov. 3. Click here for a list of the ballot drop-off spots.

Hand deliver your ballot to the Union County Board of Elections or County Clerk’s offices. These offices will be open for ballot delivery until 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. Hand delivery requires voters to present New Jersey identification and sign a register.

Designate a ballot bearer to deposit it in a drop-off box, or hand-deliver it to the Board of Elections or County Clerk’s offices (instructions are printed on the ballot).

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