Bipartisan effort pushes to correct some of New Jersey’s election difficulties

There is a bipartisan push to iron out some of the difficulties that election officials and voters experienced earlier this month - including the new methods put in place as part of New Jersey’s early voting law.
“I’m proud that we did this. I don’t know how we did it, I’m going to be honest with you. Other states phased it over a period of years, and we did it in six months,” says Nichole DiRado, administrator for the Union County Board of Elections.
Nine days of early voting, necessitating the use of new electronic poll books statewide, all debuted this year in a closely contested governor’s race.
“What I was opposed to was the fact that this was thrust upon the election offices without a lot of testing, without a lot of lead time,” says Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon.
Hanlon is a Republican. Her office is responsible for the voting done on voting machines. She said issues on Election Day began at 6 a.m., with some poll workers unable to get the electronic poll books immediately up and running.
“It was a rough morning, as it was throughout the rest of the state,” Hanlon says.
DiRado is a Democrat. She says her workers couldn’t count any of the vote-by-mail ballots before Election Day morning. By law, she has to wait to count provisional votes after the mail-in ballots are received. She said that the 100% number shown next to election results on TV represent only votes taken on machines.
“So that represents 431 districts – voting districts – in Union County. It does not take into account vote-by-mail ballots, early voting or provisional ballots after the fact,” DiRado says.
During his concession speech last week, Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli argued that when votes are counted and how the results are announced should be standardized statewide.
“We desperately need uniformity and strict reporting guidelines,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Star-Ledger editorial board both agree.
"The fact that we are 10 days past the election and votes are still being counted is a problem for every close election to come. Voters do deserve better,” Ciattarelli said last week.
"We're used to instant gratification in today's world. And I try to explain to people, including in Monmouth, with the system that we have it is really fast. But it's not instantaneous,” Hanlon says.
All of New Jersey's 21 counties are required to certify the final results of the election by Friday.