The Basics of VBM

The terms “Vote By Mail ballot” and “Mail-in ballot” are synonymous: they mean the same thing. Vote By Mail is shortened and referred to as “VBM”. There are usually two steps:

  1. A registered voter fills out an application form to vote by mail
  2. Once approved, the County Clerk mails the Mail-in Ballot to “VBM voters”.

First, the Application for Vote By Mail Ballot

Normally, a registered needs to apply to get a mail-in ballot sent to them. The name of the form is actually a misnomer. We support the changing of the name to better fit what it actually does: it allows New Jersey voters to vote earlier than Election Day either by mail or in-person. It should be called “Application for Early Voting.” That’s right. Once you fill out this form, you get a paper ballot called a “Mail-in ballot” but you can mail it, drop it off, or deliver it in-person for up to 45 days prior to Election Day. You can actually fill out the application form at the County Clerk’s office and then walk to the Board of Elections office, receive a paper ballot, vote, and submit it – all in one trip since most Election offices are nearby if not in the same administrative building.

Second, the Mail-in Ballot

These envelopes with the words “Official Mail-in Ballot” are comprised of several components and even though every county looks differently, they all have three critical components: the ballot, the Inner envelope, and the Outer envelope. Not doing these correctly will cause your ballot to be rejected. Find out the top reasons for ballot rejection.

What can voters expect in the mail?

During the recent July 7th Primary Elections, voters received either the Mail-in Ballot or Application for Mail-in Ballot. For the following reasons, we believe New Jersey voters should have Mail-in Ballots automatically mailed to them 45 days prior to the General Election per the Election Calendar starting September 19th.

  • Because New Jersey voters automatically received Mail-in ballot in the Primary, their expectation might be to also receive a Mail-in ballot for the General Election, November 3, 2020. Changes may cause further confusion.
  • The CDC has warned that coronavirus could be devastating in the fall coinciding with the annual flu season. Without a vaccine treatment for COVID-19, we must minimize community spread of coronavirus and voting from home keeps voters and poll workers safe.
  • Requiring voters to apply for Vote By Mail is another administrative step for both the voter and for County Clerks. This is time consuming and an extra burden since each application has to be manually processed.
Note the words “Official Mail-in Ballot” indicating official and legitimate election materials.

What is an “inactive” voter and how will they be affected?

  • A voter is classified in the State Voter Registration System as “Inactive”if they have:
    1. NOT voted in the last two federal elections (2017 or 2018), 
    2. NOT responded to any election-related communication from the county when your election material came back as “undeliverable”, and
    3. not re-registered your new address.

For the November 3rd General Election, we support sending Mail-in ballots to all registered active voters and preserving that legacy from Executive Order 144.

When can voters expect to receive their Mail-in Ballot for the November 3rd General Election?

In previous elections, mail-in ballots were mailed to VBM voters starting 45 days before each election. All VBM voters who previously applied to receive Vote By Mail in all future elections should have their ballots starting September 19, 2020.

Are you registered to vote?

You can check online here. The deadline is October 13, 2020. The requirements are:

  • A United States citizen
  • At least 17 years old, though you may not vote until you have reached the age of 18
  • A resident of the county for 30 days before the election
  • A person not serving a sentence of incarceration as the result of a conviction of any indictable offense under the laws of this or another state or of the United States.

Make it easy: register and sign up for Vote By Mail all one one form! We found the easiest way available right now for you to let your County Clerk know that you want to Vote By Mail. Click on the link for each county and the instructions and links to the forms on the Department of State are provided. We’ve also included what a sample application would look like. Fill this form as shown below and it must be received (not postmarked but received) by your County Clerk by October 13. Once received and processed, you will be registered to vote and the County Clerk will mail you a Mail-in ballot.

This form can be downloaded and printed and has a prepaid postage indicia so no stamps needed. You can also pick up for free at your local clerk’s office. Find yours in the links below.

Each form has your County Clerks’ office pre-addressed on it. The links also provide forms in languages other than English.