SOMERSET, NJ – With the November election looming and COVID-19 precautions the voting process – namely, Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order making the election to primarily vote-by-mail – Mayor Phil Kramer held a town hall on Facebook last night with Somerset County Clerk Steve Peter where they went over everything residents need to know about voting this year.
All registered voters in Franklin should receive their ballots in the mail by Oct. 10 at the latest, Peter said. Anyone that hasn’t gotten one by that date, should call or email the Somerset County Clerk’s office to receive a ballot.
If you haven’t registered to vote yet, don’t worry, eligible voters can register until Oct. 13 to receive a mail-in ballot.
You can also register and cast your mail-in ballot by going to the Somerset County Administration Building at 20 Grove St. in Somerville. Registration is open until Oct. 13, but voters will still be able to return ballots after the registration deadline.
“We do have people available in the atrium,” Peter said. “The building itself is not really open to the public but there’s a limited area where you can come in, we can issue you a ballot and you can also, up until next Tuesday, you can register to vote and you can also return your ballot and sign the book that you have returned your ballot.”
Voters who have already received ballots in the mail have a few options for casting their vote:
- The United States Postal Service (ballots must be postmarked by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 and received by the county Board of Elections by Nov. 10.
- Official Ballot Drop Boxes (there are 13 in the county – one for each town – with Franklin’s located at the municipal building at 475 DeMott Lane.
- Your local polling place
However, if voters choose to drop their ballots off at polling places, they shouldn’t expect to use voting machines like they may be used to. The use of the typical machines is restricted to only those with disabilities who can’t use a paper ballot.
“Those machines are strictly intended for disabled voters who cannot otherwise vote on a paper ballot and they will have to sign an affidavit to that effect before they’re allowed to use the machine,” Peter said.
Peter said that during the June primary, only five ballots were cast this way throughout the county.
For those not wanting to rely on the mail for their vote, polling places are broken down by ward and both Kramer and Peters encouraged voters to use their designated polling place to keep crowds down and better manage social distancing. However, in a pinch, voters can drop their ballots off at any of the locations.
“It would be useful to go to your polling location because then we have even amounts of people hopefully going there and that will reduce crowding and help social distancing … but if you’re in a jam, you can go … to any polling location,” Kramer said. “I want everybody to vote.”
However, there are two ways to vote at polling locations – excluding using voting machines. The first, and best way according to Peters, is to drop off a mail-in ballot you already received and filled out. The second, which could help voters who may have lost their ballot, is to fill out a provisional ballot at the polling place. But keep in mind that these ballots cannot be counted until after all the mail-in ballots are accounted for.
“If you do go and vote the provisional ballot the Board of Elections cannot even look at that ballot until all the vote-by-mail bellows have been received,” Peter said. “That means the provisionals will not even begin to be counted until at least Nov. 11.”
These are the seven polling locations that will be open for Franklin residents in November:
- Districts 1-7 – Griggstown Fire House: 1037 Canal Road, Princeton
- Districts 8-10 & 30-34 – BOE Building (formerly Consolata): 2301 Rt. 27, Somerset
- Districts 11-16 – Zarephath Children’s Ministry Center: 595 Weston Canal Road, Somerset
- Districts 17-22 & 24-29 – Community/Senior Center, 505 DeMott Lane
- Districts 35-43 – Parkside Community Center: 3 Parkside Street, Somerset
- Districts 44-48 – East Franklin Fire House. 121 Pine Grove Avenue, Somerset
- Districts 23 & 49-51 – Somerset Presbyterian Church, 100 JFK Boulevard, Somerset
Voters can also track their mail-in ballots with the New Jersey Division of Elections here.
As of last night, Peter said, the county has received about 30,000 mail-in ballots with 23,000 of those already scanned.
Here’s how he describes the counting process on – and following – election night: The county clerk will post all vote-by-mail ballots counted before 11 p.m. on Nov. 3 and after that, Peters said the goal is to “every couple of days” update the site with new numbers that come in. The first week will be strictly vote-by-mail numbers and then the provisional ballots will account for another one or two updates, depending on how many there are.