Murphy: Nov. 3 election will be held ‘overwhelmingly’ by vote-by-mail

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday that he will sign an executive order allowing for the Nov. 3 general election to be held “overwhelmingly” by vote-by-mail. He also said the state’s new online voter registration system will be up and running effective Sept. 4.

Murphy said vote by mail is a win for democracy — and the online system will give new voters an added ability to ensure they get registered.

Speaking at his COVID-19 briefing, Murphy also said the state’s ability to hold a primary election in this format — one which produced the second-highest primary turnout in history — gives him confidence that this fall’s presidential election will go off successfully.

The deadline for voter registration is Oct. 13. And all public schools will be closed on election day, allowing them to be used as polling places.

“Ensuring that every voter has the ability to securely cast their ballot, while protecting public health, is our paramount concern,” he said.

“Results here and across our nation showed that making it easier to vote doesn’t favor any one political party, but it does favor democracy. No voter should fear for the sanctity of their ballot. Every voter should have cast their vote knowing that safeguards and procedures are in place to make sure their voice is heard.”

Here’s a look at how it will work:

  • All active registered New Jersey voters will automatically receive a prepaid return-postage vote-by-mail ballot from their county clerks. All ballots will be mailed by Oct. 15;
  • As with the primary election, there will be no sample ballots — the mailing residents receive from their county clerk will be the official ballot upon which voters cast your votes;
  • All ballots being returned through the U.S. Postal Service must carry a postmark by Nov. 3 and be received by the county clerk no later than 8 p.m. Nov. 10. Ballots which lack postmarks due to postal error received by 8 p.m. Nov. 5 will be considered valid;
  • In addition to mailing a ballot, ever voter also will have the option to either return their ballot through a secure drop box or to hand it directly to a poll worker at a polling place on Election Day. Murphy said each county will have at least 10 drop boxes;
  • There will be in-person polls open. Each municipality will be required to open at least one in-person polling site, and all counties must ensure that at least 50% of their total polling places are open. Any voter who chooses to cast their vote in-person will do so on a provisional ballot, and all individuals with disabilities will have access to an ADA-conforming voting machine.

Murphy said the new rules are necessary — even if they will produce a non-traditional election day.

“As much as we enjoy the time-honored traditions of joining our neighbors on line to cast our ballots on election day, and as much as we are energized by seeking packed polling places, we must recognize that this is not a regular election year,” he said. “We can say that in more ways than one, but it certainly matters in terms of how we go about ensuring a free and open election in the face of this ongoing pandemic.”

Murphy also said he will not let issues with the post office impact the election.

“The postal service, and its necessary funding, is being turned into a political football by those who simply don’t believe in expanding ballot access,” he said. “We will not let these political issues disenfranchise voters or suppress anyone’s ability or right to vote. We will not stand for it, and we are doing all we can to ensure these issues don’t stand in the way of empowering citizens.

“Voting is one of our most-sacred rights and civic responsibilities. The health and strength of our democracy — and of our “small-d” democratic values — is something we are committed to ensuring. Unlike some other states, we will not look for ways to restrict the rights of voters to have their voices heard or to otherwise block access to the ballot — we are doing everything we can to ensure that every voter is heard.”