A Letter to the Editor from Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi
My office, along with the Union County Board of Elections, is responsible for administering elections in Union County, and we encourage voters to use Vote by Mail ballots. They are convenient and secure, and they enable voters to avoid the risk of a mishap that could prevent them from getting to the polls on Election Day.
Unfortunately, misconceptions about the Vote-by-Mail process can discourage some voters from using this option.
Following are three of the most common myths that my Elections Division has heard from the public:
Myth #1: Vote by Mail ballots are only counted if an election is close.
FALSE. By law, Vote by Mail ballots are always counted. They are counted on Election Day, just like in-person votes at polling places.
After the polls close on Election Day, the Vote by Mail ballots are tallied. The total is added to the numbers from each polling place the next day, and posted to the County Clerk’s website.
Myth #2: Vote by Mail ballots are not private.
FALSE. Your personal identification – name, address or any other information – never goes on a Vote by Mail ballot. Vote by Mail users place their ballot in a special envelope that includes a detachable outer certificate for their name, address and signature. The envelope is not opened by the Board of Elections until after the certificate is detached. Once detached, the certificate cannot be matched to the voter’s ballot.
This method serves two important purposes. First, it ensures every voter that the privacy of their vote is protected. Second, the certificate provides a record that the voter used a Vote by Mail Ballot. In this regard it is similar to the poll books kept at polling places, where the voter’s signature provides a record that a vote was cast in person.
Myth #3: If a voter requests a Vote by Mail ballot and doesn’t use it, they cannot vote in person.
FALSE. A voter who requested a Vote by Mail ballot and did not use it can still go to their polling place on Election Day. Poll workers can confirm if the voter requested a Vote by Mail ballot by looking at the code next to their name (typically this will be “VBM” for Vote by Mail, or “A” for absentee).
If their request is confirmed, the voter cannot use the voting machine. However, they can request a provisional ballot and cast it at the polling place.
Every provisional ballot is reviewed by the Board of Elections. The review process ensures that each ballot has been cast by a registered voter. It also provides an assurance that voters using a Vote by Mail ballot do not also vote at their polling place.
The review process begins the day after Election Day and concludes within seven days.
At the end of the review period, all of the provisional ballots certified by the Board of Elections are tallied and reported to my office. I add these numbers to the Vote by Mail and polling place numbers, and I report the grand total to the public as the official, certified results of the election.
In other words, regardless of how the vote is cast – in person, by mail, or on a provisional ballot by a registered voter – every vote is counted.
Voters with questions about Vote by Mail or any other election procedures can call the Elections Division at 908-527-4996 for assistance.
Union County Clerk
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