ACLU of New Jersey Loses Bid for Emergency Access to Ballots

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey lost a bid to have emergency access to ballots extended for people displaced by Hurricane Sandy.

“Because of the large volume of complaints from voters who were not getting a response to their e-mail or fax requests for ballots, we would’ve liked to have another method that provided more assurance that the votes of displaced New Jersey residents would be counted,” ACLU-NJ Acting Executive Director Ed Barocas said today in an e-mailed statement.

An ACLU attorney had gone before a Superior Court judge in Newark on behalf of voters who applied to election officials by e-mail or fax machine for access to a ballot and hadn’t received a response, ACLU spokeswoman Katie Wang said in a telephone interview earlier. The organization wanted voters to be able to use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot, Wang said.

After the storm displaced thousands of residents last week, New Jersey said that residents had until 5 p.m. today to e-mail or fax the state’s 21 county clerks for a ballot. The clerks must process those requests by Nov. 9 at noon, and voters must return their ballot that day by 8 p.m.

“The problem is that when people have made petitions by fax or e-mail, they haven’t gotten a response,” Wang said. “A lot of these offices are overwhelmed.”

Wang said that at least 1,500 people have failed to get a reply from election officials.

Chris Christie

Governor Chris Christie said today in Westwood, New Jersey, that of 3,000 polling places statewide, almost 100 had to be moved because of a lack of power or damage to the building. Christie, a Republican, spoke to reporters after meeting with children returning to school in Bergen County.

Christie said he had heard of some snags with voters trying to learn the location of their polling place by texting a statewide system using the number 877877.

“We’ve had very few instances this morning with problems other than problems with that texting software and they seem to have been cleared up,” he said. “The only place I’ve heard about problems so far is maybe a lack of voting machines in Hoboken.”

Christie urged residents to vote despite the hardships created by the hurricane.

“I know you’ve got a lot on your plate right now in your life, but it’s a national election and it’s important to vote,” Christie said. “It’s important to have your voice heard, and New Jersey’s voice heard, in the nation as well as state and local elections. There’s no reason not to.”

Rumors, Confusion

Keisha Tayborn, 39, of South Orange, said rumors and confusion were swirling before the election about when and where to vote. Tayborn, a customer service representative at Cablevision, said co-workers speculated about how to vote by fax, by e-mail and in person at the county clerk’s office in Newark. She said she chose to vote at her usual polling place at the Marshall School.

“I didn’t want to do that,” Tayborn said of the voting alternatives. “I don’t feel comfortable with it: You have hacking, you have fraud and so I just wanted to do it the old- fashioned way. There really was a lot of confusion.”

To contact the reporters on this story: David Voreacos in Newark at dvoreacos@bloomberg.net; Terrence Dopp in Trenton at tdopp@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net; Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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