TOMS RIVER – Voters in the county shouldn’t have any limitations placed upon them when it comes to casting their vote in November, according to county officials.
This year features a presidential election on the ballot which makes Election Day even more important.
Ocean County Freeholder Gary Quinn said that not everyone wants to vote by mail as they did during the July primary. This year’s primary was pushed back a month due to the pandemic.
Quinn, who is the liaison to the Ocean County Clerk’s Office said, “we should be able to provide our voters with a choice and not decide for them how they want to cast a ballot in November.”
Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders requiring residents to stay at home have been lifted and some gathering numbers have increased. Ocean County officials have promoted the idea of opening up more polling places and allowing for in-person voting be allowed.
“Our citizens should not be told how to cast a ballot. When the state starts doing that we begin to chip away at the democratic process,” Quinn added.
The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders passed a resolution on Aug. 5 calling on the governor to allow for the use of in-person voting machines, in conjunction with voluntary mail-in balloting, in the Nov. 3, 2020 General Election.
Ocean County Clerk Scott Colabella said, “even though the main way to vote in this year’s Primary Election was by mail-in ballot as ordered by the Governor’s Executive Order, over 188,000 voters statewide still went to the limited number of polling places to cast their ballot. In Ocean County, that number was more than 12,000 voters.”
He added however that “when they got to the polling place they could not cast their vote on a machine as they have traditionally done but had to fill out a provisional ballot.”
“When you have that amount of voters wanting to vote at the polls, like they would normally do, they should be given the opportunity to cast their ballot in a voting booth as they have always done. Governor Murphy needs to hear this,” Colabella said.
Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari said the mail-in voting has a potential for fraud and comes with a much greater expense and takes far more time.
Vicari added, “the Ocean County Clerk’s Office and the Ocean County Board of Elections sent out almost 1 million pieces of information leading up to the Primary Election in June. That is a staggering number.”
“It resulted in overtime, printing expenses, and drawing from the staff of all County Government departments to get the information out and then to review it when it was returned,” Vicari added.
The resolution by the Freeholders states the practice of predominantly using mail-in ballots for all registered voters caused concern for voter fraud, voter disenfranchisement, postal delivery delays, significant increase in election costs and reliance on a flawed statewide voter/DMV computer registration data base all resulted in significant delays in the counting of ballots.
Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, who serves as the liaison to the Ocean County Board of Election said, “we have heard from many of our voters that they want to wait until Election Day to cast their ballot electronically, in-person, for the candidate of their choice as they have always done. This allows them to fully assess the latest information available.”
“It’s all about choice. Choice of the candidate, and the choice of how to vote for them,” she added noting that the County was in no way minimizing the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and all polling places would have the appropriate safeguards in place to make sure voting was safe for voters and poll workers.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, state law permitted voting by mail for any reason, allowing any voter, even remotely concerned about in-person voting the option to request a mail-in ballot thus enhancing voter choice, according to the resolution.
Quinn added, “voting is a right and a privilege in America. We want to keep it that way in Ocean County and the State should not be telling the voter how they can cast a ballot. That is not how we do things.”
“If we can shop at big box stores, wait on long lines for the DMV, buy groceries at ShopRite, or attend mass demonstrations, surely we can vote at the polls in a voting booth as we have always done,” Quinn said.