NJ ballots cast in person won’t be tallied for another week

By and KYW Newsradio 1060

SOUTH JERSEY (KYW Newsradio) — Mail-in ballots are already being counted in New Jersey. If you vote in person at a polling place, your vote will be counted, but not for another week.

All 6 million registered New Jersey voters were sent mail-in ballots. To reduce risk of coronavirus transmission, the state wanted to limit lines at the polls by conducting this election mostly through mail or drop boxes. Anyone who shows up at a polling place on Election Day can either hand in a completed mail-in ballot or vote on the spot with a paper provisional ballot.

According to Camden County Board of Elections Commissioner Rich Ambrosino, election officials can’t start looking at these provisional ballots until Nov. 11. Election officials have to make sure no one votes twice — voting by mail and then again in person.

“The provisional ballots are counted after all of the vote-by-mail ballots are processed and counted,” he added.

“We run them through our sorter, and it will kick out the ones where that voter ID number already has a ballot for this election [marked] as received."

About 357,000 mail-in ballots were sent out in Camden County, and more than 225,000 have been sent back so far, Ambrosino said. He expects a final total around 280,000, which would be a turnout of about 75%.

“The drop boxes will be open until 8 o’clock. Our office will be open until 8 o’clock," he said.

Counting for the night will end at 11 p.m., and results for all ballots received by then will be available online shortly after 11 p.m.

Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order allowing counties to begin tallying mail-in ballots 10 days before Election Day. Ambrosino said that headstart should allow a good chunk of Camden County’s returns to be announced on election night.

“We should maybe have up on election night 60% to 70% of what we will ultimately receive,” he said.

Election workers can’t get an early peek at the results. That’s a third-class felony.

“We’re not allowed to do a tally report or release any early numbers — or release any numbers at all — until after the polls close," Ambrosino said.

And anyway, he said, any query would leave a digital trail.

“It’s linked up to the statewide voter registration system,” Ambrosino explained, “so the state would know if someone here logged on and did a tally report.”

Some ballots have been rejected because the signature on the ballot didn’t match the signature on the voter roll. Those voters will get a letter from the county and they have until the 17th to cure the discrepancy.

For the last week and a half, Ambrosino said nearly two dozen members of the National Guard have been helping carry and process the ballots. Camden County is counting with seven high-speed scanning machines.