BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ The Bernards Township Committee affirmed its support of in-person voting _ asserting that residents want to vote at the polls and listing potential pitfalls with mail-in ballots _ but last week's resolution is too late to impact the state's voting procedures for November 2020.
The resolution was approved "strongly encouraging the right of in-person machine voting for the November 3, 2020 general election" was supported by a 4 to 1 vote of the Township Committee on Sept. 15. Even so, Bernards Township already has announced this year's procedure for voting on Nov. 3, consistent with state-approved procedures.
Many voters want to cast their vote on day of election, resolution says
"The Bernards Township Committee feels that voter 'choice' should refer to 'how to vote, not just 'who' to vote for in a given election cycle," the resolution states. The resolution said that numerous voters had expressed a desire to cast their vote electronically on the day of the election, "for the candidate of their choice to fully allow them to assess the latest information available regarding candidates and public questions."
Secure ballot box voting option
Along with voting by mail, Bernards Township voters can drop their ballot into a "secure ballot box" in the lobby behind the Bernards Township municipal building at 1 Collyer Lane in Basking Ridge. The box will be unlocked to accept ballots soon after they are mailed to registered voters in early October, and the lobby will be open around-the-clock. Completed ballots can be dropped in the box until polls close on election day.
Except for those voters who required accommodations under the American Disability Act, township voters who cast a ballot at a polling site will actually be filling out a paper "provisional ballot." Municipal Clerk Rhonda Pisano said later that the provisional ballot "will be compared to those received in the mail to ensure no duplicates. There will be no voting on a machine, except for those require an ADA accommodation."
The sole Township Committee member to vote against the resolution, Joan Harris, said she is "all for in-person" voting, but that she disagreed with the line in the measure charging that mail-in bsllots create the concern for voter fraud, adding there is no proof of widespread voter fraud with mail-in voting.
Resolution lists several objections to mail-in ballots
The resolution charged that practice of predominantly using mail-in ballots for all registered voters "causes concerns for voter fraud, voter disenfranchisement, postal delivery delays, significant increase in election costs, and reliance on a flawed statewide voter/DMV computer registration database."
The resolution said that the required use of mail in ballots resulted in significant delays in the counting of ballots and determining the outcome of the primary election, and those votes cast were a "small fraction" of the ballots expected to be cast in the November election in a presidential election year.
Resident Todd Edelstein agreed that there will be a problem with a delayed vote count when the number of mail-in votes is much greater than the number of mail-in absentee votes typically cast in previous elections.
Residents also noted that the township's resolution is after the fact for this year. Edelstein reiterated on Thursday that he supports in-person voting, "but this resolution is too late and should've been done right after the primary election" on July 7. [added]
In discussing the proposal, Township Committee members also discussed some of what they consider as drawbacks of voting by mail. For example, Township Committeeman John Carpenter said that ballots will be mailed out to households to voters who have died, have moved away, and to grown children who no longer live with their parents and may have re-registered at another location.