Comparing COVID Voting in CT and NJ

My sister-in-law asked me for a breakdown of the differences in how two nearby states are handling voting under COVID.

Below is a small comparison table I put together.

As the US Constitution reserves the rights and duty to conduct elections to the states, there are numerous differences in the way our 50 "laboratories of democracy" perform their roles.

In NJ, there is a fundamental weakness in sending unsolicited ballots out by mail.  Urban centers typically do not do a good job of maintaining their voting lists, so a significant percentage of ballots are sent to  locations where voters no longer live.  In addition, NJ is not a member of ERIC, which is a 30-state voter registry verification service which tracks duplicate voter registrations across states, as well as requiring a strict list cleaning regimen each year.

NJ protects against the use of those ballots by verifying the signatures on the ballots against previously scanned signatures in their registry list.

CT has no law or ability to perform the same type of verification, as there is not a complete list of scanned signatures, or equipment to perform scanning at a high rate.

NJ may soon also add procedures to ensure that absentee voters get the chance to fix their ballots if they mail it in early enough and a problem is discovered.  This process is called "curing", and it appears that NJ is about to pass the Ballot Cure Act to create this opportunity for notification to the voter.

CT is providing a greater availability to vote in person, by keeping all regular polling places open for the duration of election day.  This makes voting for the disabled much more convenient.

At first blush I was sure that the NJ system was problematic because they send out unsolicited ballots, and aren't part of the premier data sharing consortium.  My opinion hasn't completely changed, but depending on the reliability and accuracy of the signature scanning and verification process, NJ may have mitigated the issue of sending out unsolicited ballots.

Area of Interest

Connecticut

New Jersey

List Maintenance

CT is a member of ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center.  30 states share information on duplicate voters.  Part of ERIC is a commitment to cleaning lists using data on moves and deaths every year.

New Jersey - Not part of ERIC and it’s duplicate voter sharing.

Distribution of Ballots

A voter must request an absentee ballot by mailing an application to the Town Clerk.

Ballots are sent out to all active voters.  No application is required.

Primary Voting Method

Polling place votes are automatically counted on election day unless there is an indication that a voter has voted by AB.  


There is a time lag between the receipt of the AB and the marking of the poll book, where a voter could theoretically cast two ballots, which would be uncovered after the fact. 

Polling place ballots are all considered provisional and will not be counted until all absentee ballots have been recorded.

Signature Verification of Absentee Balllot

There is no verification/matching of signatures against previous voter registration documents.
NJSA 19:62-3 part c:
Election officials shall verify the signature of the voter on the outer envelope of each ballot returned by comparing it with the signature on file.

Curing Issues with Absentee Ballots

There are no requirements to notify voters that there is a problem with their mailed-in ballots

NJ looks like it is about to pass the Ballot Cure Act, it would require that voters be told of a potential ballot rejection and have the right to fix a problem.  S-2598.

Last day to count Absentee Ballots

Ballots must be received by Election Day.  Currently no emergency measures to extend this.  Postmarks do not matter, at this point.

NJ Gov Executive Order gives a full week for letters postmarked by Election Day to arrive and be counted.Every vote-by-mail ballot that is postmarked on or before November 3, 2020, and that is received by November 10, 2020, at 8:00 p.m. shall be considered valid and shall be canvassed, assuming the ballot meets all other statutory requirements. Additionally, every ballot without a postmark, and ballots mis-marked and confirmed by the post office that those ballots were received by the post office on or before November 3, 2020, that is received by the county Boards of Elections from the United States Postal Service within forty-eight (48) hours of the closing of polls on November 3, 2020, shall be considered valid and shall be canvassed, assuming the ballot meets all other statutory requirements.

Availability of In-Person Voting

All Polling Places are open

A minimum of one polling place shall be open per jurisdiction.

Accessible Voting

All Polling Places are open and will have accessible voting devices available.

An accessible voting device shall be available in each town in the municipal clerk’s office.

 

Feel free to let me know what you think about the differences between voting in CT and NJ during COVID.  You can use the comment area below.

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