Updates from Executive Order 144 in red.

Allow election workers more time to handle the time- and labor-intensive aspect of ballot processing

Election workers need more time than what is currently provided by law for the processing of paper ballots (signature confirmation, opening outer envelope, verifying the voter’s certificate, opening the inner envelope). In the 2019 General Election, there were over 270,00 votes by mail, nearly 23% of the total votes cast. We expect around 750,000 people to vote by mail for the 2020 Primary Election. Election workers can start the manual part of the processing without the tabulation part, which would not occur until Election Day. Any leaked vote counts or the appearance of how the votes are tallying up for any candidate or party is a crime of the third degree, resulting in a prison sentence between 3 and 5 years and a fine up to $15,000 if convicted.

Update: We got a partial on this ask. Election workers will get time needed to canvass the ballots. “The county Boards of Elections may continue the counting of ballots beyond the close of polls on July 7, 2020, and adjourn counting to the following day, and any day thereafter, within the limits of this Order, until the counting is completed.”

  1. Allow county election officials 21 days prior to Election Day to begin sorting and signature verification and ballot verification NO
  2. Recruit workers to handle the volume (many unemployed, pay them at the New Jersey minimum hourly rate). Yes – they can recruit poll workers not residing in the same county.
  3. Allow county election officials 3 days to notify the voter in cases of ballot rejection NO
  4. Allow voters up to 5 days after the close of Election Day to provide cure for their ballot similar to Colorado. NO
  5. Anonymous ballots will be scanned starting on Election Day as usual YES
  6. Put safeguards into law that makes the revealing of ballot counts and leaks a crime.  In the statute but not emphasized.
  7. Require closed TV monitoring of the vote processing NO
  8. Institute Risk-Limiting Audits post election to ensure election security, integrity, and transparency. (Video of Colorado: Brief explainer at 3:00 mark to 4:00.). In the statute but not emphasized.

Concern with Ballot Tabulation Leakages?

ATNJ Education asked election officials in King County in Washington the following:

We want to separate out the time-consuming manual labor aspect of processing ballots which are signature verification and separating the ballots from the outer envelope and inner envelopes.  The anonymous ballots would not be scanned and counted until Election Day.  The concern is that during the manual labor part of this processing, news will leak out and advantages will be had by unscrupulous parties. 

  • You start your processing prior to Election Day and are leaks about how the votes are going a concern? 
  • How does Washington prevent the leaks from happening? 
  • What is in your laws that prohibits the leaks and what are the safeguards in place during the processing? 

Response from Director of King County Elections:

“We’ve never had any issues with results being reported early. Our tabulation system allows for us to scan ballots as soon as they are received without producing results until after 8 p.m. on election night. Once a voter’s ballot is ready for counting, we scan the ballots and store the images on a secure and closed system. The tabulation server is secured in a room with security cameras, biometric-controlled access, and tamper evident seals. After 8 p.m. on election night, 2 elections staff with permissions to the tabulation room turn on the results feature in the system and produce the first election results report.”

Example of ballot counting language (Colorado):

1-7.5-107.5. Counting mail ballots.

The election officials at the mail ballot counting place may receive and prepare mail ballots delivered and turned over to them by the designated election official for tabulation. Counting of the mail ballots may begin fifteen days prior to the election and continue until counting is completed. The election official in charge of the mail ballot counting place shall take all precautions necessary to ensure the secrecy of the counting procedures, and no information concerning the count shall be released by the election officials or watchers until after 7 p.m. on election day.