Vote-By-Mail Process Explained

Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi

PARSIPPANY — Based on a recent article in NewJerseyGlobe.com, it was reported that “Grossi Rejects High Rate of Vote-By-Mail (VBM) Applications of Asian Indian Parsippany Voters.”

Based upon a number of inquiries concerning the processing of Vote by Mail (“VBM”) applications, the following procedure required by NJ State Law are explained and stringently followed by the Morris County Clerk’s Election Office.

Vote-By-Mail applications and ballots are governed by N.J.S.A. 19:63-1 et al., commonly known as the Absentee Voter Act (“ACT”).  The purpose of the ACT is to “facilitate exercise of franchise of voters, while preventing fraud and preserving secrecy and integrity of voting process.” Barrett v. Monmouth County Bd. of Elections, 307 N.J. Super. 403, 403 (1997).

In compliance with the ACT, the Morris County Clerk’s Election Office is responsible for processing all VBM Applications, reviewing the application to ensure that it meets certain criteria, if not, the VBM Application must be rejected and, if verified, the Vote-By-Mail Ballot is mailed to the voter.  Once these steps are completed, the County Clerk’s Office is no longer involved with processing the actual VBM ballot.  That is the responsibility of the County Board of Elections, which is a separate entity from the County Clerk’s Office. All completed VBM Ballots, by law, should be returned to the County Board of Elections and not the County Clerk’s Office.

Concerning the Vote-By-Mail Applications, the County Clerk’s Election Office is required to input every VBM Ballot application it receives into the New Jersey State Voter Registration System (“SVRS”) and is required to compare the “signature block against” what appears in the “SVRS”. N.J.S.A.19:63-8.

The SVRS contains a list of enumerated reasons why an application shall be rejected.  Those reasons are as follows:  not registered in the county, name does not match the registration files, no “X” on application, no witness on application, not at address given on application, application received after deadline, changed party after 55 day deadline (refers to primary elections), county address required, criminal conviction, damaged application, incomplete assistor portion, moved out of county, signature does not match, other, voter status – deleted, power of attorney not allowed, and over 3 voters per messenger (refers to vote by mail ballot received by the Board of Elections).

By way of example, in the 2017 Parsippany election cycle, VBM Applications were rejected for the following reasons: signature on application does not compare with the signature of record, birth dates did not match, assistor portion not filled out or not completed properly, application not signed, registered at a different address, application received after deadline, signature missing, on the criminal disqualification list, registered under a name other than one listed on their application, etc.

In the event that a Vote-By-Mail Application is rejected, the voter is notified in writing and provided with an explanation of the reason for the rejection. 

This way the voter is given the opportunity, if possible, to cure the defect and resubmit a corrected VBM Application.  However, even if the voter does not cure the defect and provided that they are a registered voter, they are always permitted to vote at their local polling location.

The most important thing to note is that no one is ever disenfranchised or denied the right to vote.

 

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