To Vote by Mail or Not? Here’s What NJ Thinks

by Tom Davis, Patch Staff

This story is republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. Link to story: patch.com/new-jersey/pointpleasant/vote-mail-or-not-heres-what-nj-thinks

The 2020 presidential election was shaping up to a big one for New Jerseyans long before anyone knew public health and the capacity of the United States Postal Service would each play a vital role in it.

Record numbers of voters are expected to cast their primary ballots by mail, both in New Jersey and across the nation, as health officials continue to recommend it as the safest choice amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Last week, we asked Patch readers across New Jersey to give their thoughts on a number of questions related to mail-in balloting and the upcoming election.

More than 4,000 individuals responded to the informal survey, nearly all of whom say they plan to vote in the upcoming election, and with a majority indicating both that they would not vote by mail and that they were concerned their vote may not be counted.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy caused controversy after announcing certain operational changes to the United States Postal Service which Democrats said would cripple the timely delivery of mail-in ballots.

Shortly thereafter, The state Attorney General’s Office announced in response, along with 20 others states, a lawsuit which would prevent those changes, citing the threat to the November election.

As the lawsuits were announced over the past two weeks, DeJoy said all policy or operational changes would be suspended until after the election. But he also said he won’t change what’s already been done, such as eliminating sorting machines at distribution centers.

The issue continues to be split on partisan lines nationally. Locally, Democratic leaders were adamant in their optimism that mail-in balloting would be protected, and that New Jerseyans should not worry about casting their vote by mail.

According to the Patch survey, more than 58 percent of respondents said they would not vote by mail, with nearly 42 percent saying they would not.

With the majority stating they would not vote by mail, they also indicated they were concerned their vote would not be counted or received if they did so.

That concern appears to translate to a belief of an effort to intentionally undermine democracy. More than 65 percent of respondents said that they do think voting by mail encourages fraudulent activity.

Voters were more mixed when it came to the optimism they expressed regarding the smoothness of the election, and specifically about the timeliness of vote tabulation. Nearly 30 percent said they were “very confident,” but another 19.7 percent were “somewhat confident,” and more than 51 percent of all respondents were “not at all confident.”

When asked to put into words their thoughts on the election, “fraud” was one of the most commonly repeated responses. So were “safe” and “necessary.”

“It is very important during this epidemic. There is no reason why someone should not be able to do it this way,” one person said.

Another said: “All voting should be done in person with identification unless an absentee ballot is necessary.”

Many left one-word answers, like this one:

“Stupid.”

Or this one:

“Necessary.”

The ballots will be mailed to voters by Oct. 5. You will receive it from your county clerk.

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