NEWARK, NJ – A letter pdfsigned by a coalition of 20 local organizations on Friday was sent to Essex County Superintendent of Elections Patty Spango requesting an investigation amid issues reported at multiple polling places in Newark during the primary election. 

The letter claimed multiple polling places in Newark didn't have voting machines when polls opened, and it took hours for the machines to arrive. With voters left having to use provisional ballots, other residents returned to polls later in the day to cast their ballot.

“I went to my Newark polling place at 7:30 on Tuesday morning to cast my ballot only to find that there were no voting machines available,” said Ryan Haygood, president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “I was told to return later and not offered a provisional ballot until I proactively requested one. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have encountered voting obstacles in Newark. Running elections is a massive endeavor, but we must do better.”

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A total of 33 voting machines, mostly for polling locations in Newark's Central, South and West Wards, were not delivered before the polls opened at 6 a.m. on election day, the New Jersey Globe reported.

Other organizations who signed the letter engage in nonpartisan Election Protection each election cycle, including monitoring a hotline, social media monitoring, field volunteers and legal advocacy.

The letter points out that this week’s election was not the first time that there have been voting obstacles in Newark on Election Day. In the 2020 General election, multiple polling places in Newark were not open on time, the letter states.

“Counties like Essex like to pride themselves on holding successful elections, and in many ways that is true. But for an election to be truly successful it must provide equal access to the ballot to all voters, and, unfortunately, that has not been the case,” said Henal Patel, director of the Democracy and Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Voters in suburban Essex County generally do not encounter the same issues that voters in Newark  – the state's largest and a majority Black city – regularly do." 

The calls on the county to conduct a "thorough investigation" regarding the issues at the polling locations for this year's primary and in previous years, measures to be taken to prevent the problems from persisting, and that the findings and plans be released publicly.

“We do not make this request lightly. We understand how difficult it is to run elections, particularly during a pandemic. We work with counties and the state to ensure that our election system is strong and that voters can trust it. Our goal is to ensure all voters have easy and equal access to the ballot. However, voters in Newark do not have the same access as voters in other parts of Essex County and the State of New Jersey," said the letter.

Spango didn't reply to a request from TAPinto Newark for comment on the matter. 

The letter was signed by the following parties:

  • Abbott Leadership Institute
  • All of Us or None-Northern NJ
  • Brick City Peace Collective
  • CAIR New Jersey
  • Delaware-New Jersey National Lawyers Guild
  • Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • League of Women Voters of New Jersey
  • Muslim League of Voters
  • NAACP Newark NJ
  • New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
  • New Jersey League of Conservation Voters
  • Newark Anti-Violence Coalition
  • NJ 11th for Change
  • NJ Working Families
  • Office of Violence Prevention
  • Our Revolution Essex
  • Project Ready
  • Returning Citizens Cooperative
  • Salvation and Social Justice
  • The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey