Changes in New Jersey VBM(VBM) election law resulted in an unprecedented number of VBM ballots being cast.  Middlesex County received over 39,000, the most in the state.
Based upon my personal observations on election day November 6, 2018, of the VBM reviewing process, I sent an email on November 20, 2018, to the Middlesex County Board of Election questioning the process and its’ fairness. Having received no reply, I subsequently sent an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request.  The information provided in the OPRA response I recently received and the lack of response from the Board of Elections regarding the process of reviewing and counting VBM ballots raised many concerns.
The questions and concerns in the letter to the Board of Elections which were never answered:
  • ·       Why were County employees (predominately Democrats) told to report at 6:00am while “seasonal” employees (Republicans) were told to report at 7:00am?  Why were seasonal employees sent home hours before the County employees?  The concern is that all steps in the processing was not observed by a member of both parties.  
  • ·       The workers were told to darken light circles or if an X was marked, to change the X and fill in the circle.  Since the workers were told they could alter the ballot, why were they not given writing implements that could be distinguished from voters marks?  The concern is the ballot could potentially be filled in, with a mark that was not the intention of the voter.
  • ·       There were people reviewing ballots from their own town.  I requested the names of the people, the table number they were at and which towns were assigned to those tables.  
  • ·       A candidate in the election was also counting ballots.  Why was that allowed?
When there was no response from the Board of Election, through the OPRA I requested from  Middlesex County : Payroll Records including hours worked, pay scale and political party affiliation of all people who counted the vote by mails ballots on election day November 6, 2018. 
The OPRA response showed:
  • ·       Inequity of selection of who reviewed and processed the ballot validity.  There were 104 people hired to conduct a review of the validity of the ballots, prior to machine counting.  Of the 104 people, 73 were Middlesex County employees who were not Board of Election employees and 31 were categorized as "seasonal," because they were hired just for election day.
  • ·       Disparity in pay. The 73  Middlesex County employees were paid time and a half for working the holiday, earning $27.00 - $88.00 per hour, while the "seasonal" employees were paid $15.00 per hour, doing the same work.  Middlesex County employees cost a total of $35,139.00 while the seasonal cost $3,990.00.  To add insult to injury the County employees get to choose an additional day off during the year for working the holiday.
  • ·       Disparity in hours worked.  The Middlesex County employees worked almost three times more hours than the seasonal employees.
  • ·       Disparity in political party affiliation, pay and hours worked.  There were 47 Democrats, 38 Republicans and 19 Unaffiliated personnel listed.  Upon review of voter registration records, a number of those listed as Republicans and Unaffiliated are actually Democrats or not registered. 
Who made the decision to hire so many Middlesex County workers at such a high cost to the taxpayer?  How was the selection of which County employees worked on the VBM counting made?
The answers to the OPRA request, along with the lack of response from the Board Of Election confirm that the process for reviewing the VBM ballots in Middlesex County was flawed on many levels, leaving many opportunities for voter fraud.
I call on the NJ State Legislatures to come up with standard guidelines that assures the integrity of the VBM laws they recently passed.
Lucille Panos
Middlesex County Republican Committee