HAWTHORNE, NJ - More than a month after the New Jersey primary election was originally scheduled, Hawthorne residents are finally headed to the ballot box — figuratively speaking, that is.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, this year’s primary election was postponed from June 2 to July 7 and will be conducted predominantly by mail. All registered Democrats and Republicans were sent mail-in ballots while unaffiliated voters received ballot applications that had to have been submitted by June 30 in order to vote on Tuesday.

Mail-in ballots for this primary must be postmarked 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.  Voters can also take their ballots in-person to the County Board of Elections in Paterson.  Each day, up until the election, representatives from the sheriff’s department and prosecutor’s office will be picking up the ballots, and on Election Day, the town will be collecting and delivering ballots to the county as they would during any other election.

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If a Hawthorne resident did not get a ballot application in on time or does not want to vote-by-mail, that voter will still have an opportunity to cast a vote.  Due to the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19, Hawthorne will have one polling station available at the Roosevelt Elementary School gymnasium, 50 Roosevelt Avenue.

Officials have encouraged voters to use the vote-by-mail, however, in an effort to limit the possible spread of coronavirus and reduce the amount of potential contact between individuals.

There are no borough officials on the ballot, but residents can cast their votes in the presidential, congressional, and county freeholder primary races.

On the Democratic ballot, voters will find former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders running to represent their party in the presidential election, although Biden has already won enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination. Senator Cory Booker is running for his second term while facing a challenge from Lawrence Hamm.  Incumbent Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. is running against Zinovia Spezakis and Alpaslan Basaran.  Incumbent County Freeholders Bruce James and Theodore “TJ” Best round out the Democratic primary ballot and have no competition.

On the Republican ballot, President Donald Trump is running unopposed.  The race for the Senate nomination sports a crowded field with Patricia Flanagan, Rikin Mehta, Hirsh Singh, Natalie Lynn Rivera, and Eugene Anagnos all hoping to represent their party this November.  For Congress, Billy Prempeh and Timothy C. Walsh seek the nomination for the 9th Congressional district race.  Freeholder candidates William Marsala and Matthew Conlon have no opposition in their respective races. 

While voters will be focusing on their choices and casting their votes, the county is dealing with an unusual set of circumstances this year.  With a mostly vote-by-mail election, counting the votes and validating the results will take much longer than usual, according to Passaic County Clerk Danielle Ireland-Imhof.

“Due to the complexities and volume of a mostly vote-by-mail election, the Governor has allowed each county’s Board of Elections to receive ballots through July 14, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.," said Ireland-Imhof.  "The time it will take our Board of Elections to canvass the provisional ballots and complete election results could take a couple of weeks."

Another unique challenge for this primary election is keeping poll workers and voters safe during a global pandemic. In an effort to protect people from the coronavirus, the county has provided each municipality with personal protective equipment for its poll workers and everything on site will be spaced appropriately to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Despite these new challenges, Ireland-Imhof says the goal remains the same.  “These are unchartered waters, and we want to ensure that voters have the opportunity to participate in a fair and safe election process.”

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