Union County, NJ – Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi has answered voter questions in the following letter-to-editor, regarding the use of ballot drop boxes in the 2020 General Election on November 3:
Dear Editor: In the August 27, 2020 edition of The Westfield Leader, a resident listed several questions about the use of drop boxes for Vote-by-Mail ballots for the 2020 General Election.
I appreciate the opportunity to clarify what is meant by Vote-by-Mail. Although the name refers to mail, there are in fact four ways to return a Vote-by-Mail ballot. Voters can choose any of these options:
- Use the pre-paid envelope to send the ballot by U.S. Post. To help ensure their ballots arrive on time, I strongly urge voters to fill out and mail their ballots as soon as they are received.
2: Bring the ballot to any one of the secure, official ballot drop boxes available in Union County. These boxes are open on a 24/7 basis and will be kept open until the polls close at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
- Bring the ballot to my Main Office in the County Courthouse at 2 Broad Street in Elizabeth, to my Annex Office at 300 North Avenue East in Westfield, or to the Board of Elections office at 271 North Broad Street Elizabeth.
- A limited number of polling places will be available in each of the 21 municipalities on Election Day. Voters may bring their Vote-by-Mail ballots to their designated polling place until the polls close at 8:00 p.m. Please note that voters who choose to vote in person at their polling place will be provided with a provisional paper ballot. Voting machines will be available only to persons with disabilities.
For additional details, including a list of ballot drop box locations and polling places, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions posted on my Elections website, unioncountyvotes.com, and on the free ucvotes app for mobile devices.
I also encourage voters with questions to contact my office by calling the Elections Division at 908-527-4996 or emailing email@example.com.
As to the specific questions raised in the letter:
- Is there a plan to distribute more ballot boxes in Union County?
For the November 3 General Election, a total of 13 locations are expected. There were five locations for the July 7 Primary Election.
- How do you intend to communicate this information to residents?
The drop box locations will be available on my elections website at unioncountyvotes.com, on my free UC Votes app for mobile devices, and on the Board of Elections website at ucnj.org/boe. Five of the locations have already been announced and are posted. Additional locations will be announced and posted in the coming weeks.
As with all County Clerk announcements, the locations will be publicized through the media, and through Union County’ social media and First Alert systems.
In addition, voters can contact my Elections Division with any questions they may have by calling 908-527-4996 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- How do I know that the ballot drop box is secure and cannot be tampered with?
The drop boxes are placed in locations that are subject to monitoring and surveillance. Only authorized personnel can access the drop boxes.
- When it is time to empty the contents of the ballot box, will there be representatives of both parties present? Will the ballot boxes be emptied periodically during the month of October?
The ballot boxes will be emptied on a daily basis, with the final collection taking place when the polls close at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, November 3. A bipartisan team of authorized personnel will empty the boxes.
- Please explain the process by which ballots are stored and counted.
Vote-by-Mail ballots have been a fixture in New Jersey elections for many years and will be stored securely and counted by optical scanner in accordance with standard practice. Please note that, as is the case with every election, all Vote-by-Mail ballots are included in the final, official tally rendered by my office.
- For those who plan to vote in person on November 3, please explain how the process will be different.
To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, in-person voters must wear masks and observe social distance, and use a paper provisional ballot provided at their polling place. Voting machines will only be used by persons with disabilities who cannot fill out a paper ballot. Please note that, as is the case for every election, all provisional ballots are included in the final, official tally rendered by my office.
- If I requested a mail-in ballot but decide to vote in person on Election Day, can I vote in person?
Voters who request a Vote-by-Mail ballot and do not it receive by Election Day can vote in person at their polling place and use a provisional paper ballot. The polling places are also available to voters who receive a Vote-by-Mail ballot but prefer to vote in person, so long as they have not already returned their ballot.
- Where can I personally hand in my ballot to a person?
As is the case for every election, voters who deliver a Vote-by-Mail ballot in person to my Main or Annex offices will hand their ballot my staff, and will observe as my staff places their ballot in a secure box. Please note that voters who deliver ballots to my offices will need to provide their New Jersey Driver’s License and sign a registry.
Again, thank you for helping to raise awareness about voting in the 2020 General Election. Thousands of Union County voters routinely use Vote-by-Mail to ensure that their voice is heard on Election Day, and I welcome the opportunity to educate new users about the process.
Union County Clerk
For more information about all County Clerk programs and services, visit online at ucnj.org/county-clerk or call 908-527-4787.
For more information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including guidance on the free Drive-Through Test Center at Kean University, visit ucnj.org/coronavirus-update.
For general information about COVID-19 and phone contacts for 24/7 assistance with questions, visit the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.
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