MANCHESTER – To say this year’s election has been confusing, emotional and unique would be a bit of an understatement.
A small sign affixed to a library book return box at the Manchester branch of the Ocean County Library was seen recently that points out some confusion that has never occurred before this year regarding books, ballots and drop boxes.
The sign warns those seeking to place their ballots in one of the 17 drop boxes set up around Ocean County by the county’s Board of Elections should make sure they drop them off there because “this is not a drop” box. The sign was placed on the return box for books and media which a few people mistakenly used for their ballots.
It hasn’t happened to any great frequency according to a librarian at the branch who elected to be anonymous as the branch manager was not in at the time. “I don’t think it is many at all. I do know that the vice a versa has also happened.”
She added, “we had people put books in the ballot box and I had to call the Election Board to let them know and say when you open it please put the books in our drop box. They said ‘oh my God are you kidding me’ and I said ‘no I’m not kidding you.’”
In the instance where a ballot was accidentally placed in the book drop box which somewhat resembles the ballot drop off box, “I had the situation today and I did call the Election Board and they told me what to do. I called them and let them know we had a ballot here ‘what do I do?’ and she said, ‘drop it in the drop box’,” the librarian said.
“It is very logical,” she added as some might think the procedure would be to send the ballots to the Clerk’s office or the Board of Election office directly but the simple direct approach was exactly what was called for in this rare situation.
Concerns regarding the nearly all mail-in procedure have been high for this first time use of the system which was called for by Gov. Phil Murphy due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which delayed this year’s primary by a month and also utilized a primarily mail in system.
The drop boxes have now been called for to be used as the U.S. Postal Service has reported that they are to overwhelmed to take more ballots according to a report concerning ballots in New Jersey in late October.
As for the mistaken ballot incidents, “I guess it is a common mistake. There haven’t been many,” the librarian added. She said that the addition of the reminder sign was “an individual thing at the branches that have a ballot drop box. Not every branch that has a drop off box may have put out a sign.
“We operate in a senior community and people were pulling up to the side of the building instead of the front and trying to get into the side door thinking that the ballot box was inside instead of outside,” she said.
“That has been an issue so I think that was one of the reasons the sign was put up and written that way,” she added.
Ocean County Clerk Scott M. Colabella said he had not heard of the few cases of ballots in the book return but “I’m sure the library will make us aware of it or the Board of Elections.”
He noted that election workers had been had the Mancini Building in Toms River branch of the Ocean County Library to assist voters with the process of their ballots and they then dropped off their sealed and completed ballots into the drop off box outside the building.
“We have 17 drop boxes throughout the county. It had not been brought to my attention that anyone put a ballot in a library drop box. The library workers can’t go into a ballot drop box the Board of Elections people are the only ones who can go into the drop box but they don’t have the authority to go into a library drop box,” the Clerk said.
He said he was confident that any misplaced ballot would be brought to the attention of the Board of Elections right away and put into a ballot drop box. “The County Clerk’s Office has nothing to do with the drop boxes it is the Board of Elections.
“The drop boxes are camera monitored. This is the first I’ve heard of it and we’ve had these drop boxes out since September. There is so much misinformation, rumors and stuff on social media. I’ve never seen an election with so many rumors and misinformation out there,” the Clerk added.
Colabella noted that the Board of Elections decided where the drop boxes were to be and that they send staff “out every day to pick them up.”