Mail-In Ballots: The Good, The Bad, The Solution

In July 2009, the Legislature eliminated the use of “Absentee Ballots” which required the voters, when they applied in writing, to explain why they would not be able to get to their assigned polling place on Election Day. The Legislature replaced the Absentee Ballot with the “Mail-in-Ballot” [MIB] which is much more responsive to voters’ needs. No reason is required to apply for a MIB. With the MIB the voter has the opportunity for early voting and can vote the MIB as soon as it is received. The voter can vote in the calm and quiet of his/her home. There is no concern about getting to the polling place on Election Day. And, moreover, the Legislature created Drop Boxes in order for the voter to mail the MIBs without postage costs.

Many more MIBs are mailed out than are returned. Thousands of unused MIBs have been printed, addressed, and mailed out, at a cost to the taxpayer of over $7.00/ballot.

Many votes are not counted because some voters do not property fill out the MIBs, resulting in overvotes, incorrect attempts to correct mistaken votes, failure to fully fill-in the required bubble in order to have the vote count, using the wrong color ink, or putting extraneous marks on the MIB.

Also, hundreds of statutorily required “cure letters” are sent out by the County Boards of Elections every election to voters who have not signed the Voter Certification which is attached to the inner envelope, or else the voter has removed the Voter Certification from the envelope and not returned it with the MIB. The cure letters are sent in an effort to obtain a proper voter signature or other identifying document in order to validate the MIB. Many cure letters are never returned by the voter, so those ballots are also not counted.

The solution to making MIBs a good and effective way to cast one’s vote lies in sending MIBs only to those voters who request them, rather than sending the MIBs according to the New Jersey statutes, which require sending an MIB to any voter who received an MIB for the General Election in 2016, or who received an MIB for any election in 2017 and 2018.

Voters who are getting MIBs who do not want them can stop receiving an MIB by filling out the Opt-Out form, which every County Clerk can provide.

Additionally, the State Voter Registration System [SVRS] must be updated. Voters themselves have a big part in making this happen. Any voter at a residence receiving an MIB for someone who is deceased, or who no longer votes from that address, should notify the voter’s County Superintendent of Elections, or if there is no County Superintendent, then the voter’s County Board of Elections should be notified and follow the necessary procedures to have that voter’s name removed from the SVRS.

MIBs are a wonderful way to vote and should be readily available to everyone who wants one – but ONLY to those who do.