TRENTON, NJ – The Nov. 3 general election will be held overwhelmingly via a vote-by-mail model as per an executive order forthcoming from Gov. Phil Murphy, who says this is the safest way to ensure the voting process during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All registered New Jersey voters will receive prepaid return postage vote-by-mail ballots during the first week of October. The ballots may be mailed back, deposited in designated drop boxes or handed to poll workers in person on Nov. 3.
The governor’s announcement comes at a time when President Donald Trump has expressed his opposition to supplementary funding for the United States Postal Service, which has been financially devastated by the ongoing pandemic.
Murphy said at Friday’s COVID-19 briefing he is hopeful that cooler heads will prevail, and the postal service will be funded and running smoothly by election day.
“The politicization of the postal service is beyond repugnant,” Murphy said. “Let’s not play with fire here. The postal service, let me give just one example, we rely on the postal service for seniors to receive their medicines. So, with all due respect to politicized ballots, we rely as a country on the postal service for a whole range of things.”
Murphy moved to diffuse a reporter’s question of whether Friday’s announcement would put him on a collision course with Trump after the governor has taken a diplomatic approach to asking the president for federal aid, personal protection equipment and other items during the pandemic. While his counterpart to the north, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo , has repeatedly taken Trump to task over his handling of the pandemic, Murphy has turned down every opportunity to criticize the president.
However, Friday’s announcement puts him in diametric opposition to Trump.
Trump doesn’t seem inclined to act upon top Democrats’ recent calls for a $25 billion lifeline to help the mail service.
"They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump said on Fox Business Network yesterday.
He added if they don't get the funds, "that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it."
Trump has also repeatedly pointed to the fallout of the June primary in Paterson as a reason to eschew vote-by-mail elections for in-person ones.
State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has charged Paterson Councilman Michael Jackson, Councilman-elect Alex Mendez and two other men with voter fraud and other crimes after hundreds of mail-in ballots were discovered stuffed in a Paterson mailbox.
Murphy referred to the Paterson situation as a positive data point.
“Law enforcement is all over it,” he said. “People have been indicted. If you screw around with voting, whether it’s vote by mail or another way, you’re going to be caught and you’re going to be held accountable.”
Tehesha Way, the New Jersey Secretary of State, said that state residents who don’t receive a ballot by the second week in October should call the state’s voter protection hotline at 877-844-3010.
In-person voting will still be an option in November. Under Murphy's plan, each municipality will be required to open at least one poling site and all counties must ensure at least 50 percent of all their poling places are open.