WAYNE, NJ - More than a month after the New Jersey primary election was originally scheduled, Wayne residents are finally headed to the ballot box — figuratively speaking, that is.
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, this year’s primary election was postponed from June 2 to July 7 and will be conducted predominantly by mail. All registered Democrats and Republicans were sent mail-in ballots while unaffiliated voters received ballot applications that had to have been submitted by June 30 in order to vote on Tuesday.
Mail-in ballots for this primary must be postmarked 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Voters can take their ballots to a secure drop box in front of the municipal complex or bring them in-person to the County Board of Elections in Paterson. Each day, up until the election, representatives from the sheriff’s department and prosecutor’s office will be picking up the ballots, and on Election Day, the town will be collecting and delivering ballots to the county as they would during any other election.
If a Wayne resident did not get their ballot application in on time or does not want to vote-by-mail, they still have an opportunity to cast their votes. The town will have three polling places. Two will be in Town Hall, while the other will be at the Wayne Public Library. Voters in Wards One and Two can go to the Council Chambers in Town Hall, Wards Three and Four can go to Health Room #2 in the Health Wing of Towns Hall and voters from Wards Five and Six can go to the library.
At the polling sites, most voters will fill out a provisional ballot, which Wayne Town Clerk Paul Margiotta says are “no different” than the mail-in ballots. Each polling location will also have two ADA-accessible machines for voters with disabilities.
While voters have the option to vote in-person, Marigotta, who will be voting-by-mail for the first time, suggests that people take advantage of the vote-by-mail option.
“I would certainly encourage everybody to use the mail-in ballot that was sent to them as opposed to coming in,” Margiotta said.
There are no town officials on the ballot, but residents can cast their votes in the presidential, congressional and county freeholder primary races.
On the Democratic ballot, voters will find former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders running to represent their party in the presidential election, but Biden has already won enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination. Senator Cory Booker is running for his second term while facing a challenge from Lawrence Hamm, and Representative Mikie Sherill is unopposed as she seeks to hold onto the seat that she was elected to in 2018 in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District. Incumbent County Freeholders Bruce James and Theodore “TJ” Best round out the Democratic primary ballot and have no competition.
On the Republican ballot, President Donald Trump, Rosemary Becchi, William Marsala and Matthew Conlon have no opposition in their respective races. Becchi is running for the Republican nomination for New Jersey’s 11th congressional seat, and Conlon and Marsala are looking for the nominations for County Freeholder positions. The race for the Senate nomination sports a crowded field with Patricia Flanagan, Rikin Mehta, Hirsh Singh, Natalie Lynn Rivera and Eugene Anagnos all hoping to represent their party this November.
While voters will be focusing on their choices and casting their votes, the county is dealing with an unusual set of circumstances this year. With a mostly vote-by-mail election, counting the votes and validating the results will take much longer than usual, according to Passaic County Clerk Danielle Ireland-Imhof.
“Due to the complexities and volume of a mostly vote-by-mail election, the Governor has allowed each county’s Board of Elections to receive ballots through July 14, 2020 at 8 p.m.,"said Ireland-Imhof. "The time it will take our Board of Elections to canvass the provisional ballots and complete election results could take a couple of weeks."
Another unique challenge for this primary election is keeping poll workers and voters safe during a global pandemic. In an effort to protect people from the coronavirus, the county has provided each municipality with personal protective equipment for its poll workers and everything on site will be spaced appropriately to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Despite these new challenges, Ireland-Imhof says the goal remains the same.
“These are unchartered waters, and we want to ensure that voters have the opportunity to participate in a fair and safe election process,” she said.