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Some voters insist on going to polls despite vote-by-mail election

Some voters insist on going to polls despite vote-by-mail election


Recent Rowan University graduate Leia Calabrese, 22, of Northfield, voted with a provisional paper ballot Tuesday at the polls at Northfield Community School.

"I got it (a vote-by-mail ballot) in the mail, but decided I'd rather vote in person," Calabrese said after voting at the polls. "It just made me feel like I really voted."

In New Jersey's first mostly-vote-by mail election, it's anyone's guess how many people will show up at the polls to vote by provisional ballot.

Those ballots won't even begin to be counted until at least a week after the close of polls. It's just one more reason why there is not likely to be election results for quite a while.

Provisional ballots cannot start to be counted until all vote-by-mail ballots have come in, because poll workers must make sure anyone who voted provisionally didn't also vote by mail.

Vote-by-mail ballots must be accepted for a week after polls close, as long as they were postmarked on or before Election Day.

On Monday night the Atlantic County Board of Elections said it had already received about 34,000 vote-by-mail ballots, of which about 29,000 had been "zipped and stripped." That means the signatures had been checked, the certificates removed and envelopes opened.

The County Clerk had mailed out about 105,000 ballots, so the return rate is already about 30%.

In the last presidential election primary in June 2016, about 38,000 people voted in Atlantic County, according to the Clerk's Office.

Cape May County Clerk Rita Fulginiti said her office sent out about 46,600 vote-by-mail ballots, and as of Monday night the county Board of Elections had received 17,636 ballots.

"That's a 25% return," Fulginiti said. "We'll see what we get today."

She said the county has never had to process more than about 8,000 vote-by-mail ballots in previous elections.

In the June 2016 primary, about 18,600 voted in Cape May County.

The Democratic congressional primary in the second district, covering much of the eight southernmost counties in New Jersey, is one of the hottest races in the country. 

It pits mental health advocate and former teacher Amy Kennedy, of Brigantine; against Montclair State University professor Brigid Callahan Harrison, of Longport; Will Cunningham, a former Captiol Hill staffer, of Vineland; West Cape May Commissioner John Francis, an author and motivational speaker; and Robert Turkavage, of Brigantine, a retired FBI agent.

They are vying for the right to run in the November general election for the seat held by freshman Congressman Jeff Van Drew, R-2. Van Drew infuriated many Democrats when he left the party in December and became a Republican, after voting against impeaching President Donald J. Trump. 

Thousands more are expected to be delivered Tuesday from five drop boxes around the county, by mail delivery and in person drop off.

The board planned to have many workers start at 6 a.m., removing ballots from envelopes so they could be run through a scanner to count the votes. 

Joe McIntyre, of Turnersville, who runs the scanner started at 9 a.m., he said.

In Linwood poll workers said about 40 people came in and voted with provisional ballots in Ward 2 by 11:30 a.m., and another 27 in Ward 1.

"It's more than I expected," said poll worker Diane Kady, of Linwood, even though it's far fewer voters than they would see in a regular election using voting machines.

Poll worker Marian Jordan, of Linwood, said many people coming in said they didn't trust the vote-by-mail system.

"They say they didn't ask for it and didn't want it," Jordan said, and she has had to explain the governor's executive order makes it legal to change the election format.

Colleen Curtain, of Egg Harbor Township, said she didn't want to go to a polling place. So she dropped off her vote-by-mail ballot at a secure lock box at her township's municipal building.

She had made up her mind quite a ways back, she said, and had had the ballot a while.

"I'm a last-minute person," Curtain explained. 

She wasn't alone. There was a slow but steady stream of cars pulling up and dropping off ballots at the same location.

Gov. Phil Murphy ordered that the election move to July 7 from June 2, and be mostly vote-by-mail, in order to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus that has caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

Contact: 609-272-7219

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Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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