WITH THE 2020 Primary Election on July 7 being largely a vote-by-mail election due to Gov. Murphy's executive order, Ocean County agencies are assisting voters by extending hours and providing easily accessed vote-by-mail ballot drop off box locations.
"Voters in Ocean County traditionally like to go to the polls," said Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Elections. "And while some polling locations will be open on July 7, the Primary Election this year will primarily be done through vote by mail as per Gov. Murphy.
"With the help of the staff at the Ocean County Board of Elections and the Ocean County Clerk, voters can get assistance with their mail in ballots as those agencies team up to provide special extended hours prior to Primary Election Day," she said.
The Ocean County Clerk and Ocean County Board of Elections staff will be available to assist registered voters in person during special extended hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., starting on Tuesday, June 30 through Friday, July 3 and also on July 6 and 7. Staff will be helping voters in the Mancini Room at the Ocean County Library, 101 Washington St., Toms River.
Extended hours with in-person help will be available starting June 30 as this marks the last day an application from an unaffiliated voter can arrive by mail at the Ocean County Clerk's office.
Following New Jersey election laws which prohibit County Clerks from mailing a voter a vote by mail ballot seven days prior to an election, the staff will be available to assist registered voters who may need to obtain a vote by mail ballot, whether because they did not receive a mail in ballot, lost their ballot, made a mistake on the ballot, tore, defaced it or incorrectly marked the ballot at which time they can fill out an affidavit in person and obtain a replacement ballot.
Voters not affiliated with a particular political party who didn't receive an application in the mail or sent an application too late to be processed can still obtain a vote by mail ballot in person.
"Voters can not only obtain a vote by mail ballot during these extended hours but can actually vote the ballot and return it to the Board of Elections all at the same time in one location," said Ocean County Freeholder Gary Quinn, who serves as liaison to the County Clerk's Office.
During the last few weeks, more than 234,000 ballots have been sent to registered voters. By the time the Primary Election arrives more than 800,000 voting related pieces will have been sent to voters in Ocean County.
"As of Wednesday, June 24, 52,769 voted ballots have been returned to the Board of Elections," Haines said. "Four years ago, during the last Presidential Primary Election, 5,928 mail in ballots were received and almost 83,000 votes were cast at the polls."
Because New Jersey holds a closed Primary Election, a registered voter must be affiliated with the Democrat or Republican Party and can only vote one ballot – either Democrat or Republican in a Primary Election.
Ocean County voters received a notice with their ballot outlining the steps that need to be taken along with websites and phone numbers for further assistance if needed.
Registered voters not affiliated with a political party also were mailed a postage paid vote-by-mail application
"The County Clerk and Board of Election staff has been working seven days a week to prepare the ballots for mailing and now to make sure they are processed correctly once they are returned," Quinn said.
Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than 8 p.m. July 7. The deadline for delivering your ballot in person to the Ocean County Board of Elections or placing it in one of the secure drop boxes is also 8 p.m., July 7.
Mail in ballot drop boxes have been placed in five different locations throughout Ocean County.
Ballots can be dropped off into the secure ballot drop boxes at the following locations: The Northern Ocean County Resource Center, 225 4th S., Lakewood; Ocean County Southern Service Center, 179 South Main St., Manahawkin; the Ocean County Parking Garage, Madison Avenue, Toms River; the Brick Township Municipal Building, 401 Chambers Bridge Road, Brick Township, and the Manchester Branch of the Ocean County Library, 21 Colonial Drive, Manchester Township.
"Due to the Governor's orders and because we have heard from numerous voters that have expressed concerns over voting by mail, we are making every effort to assure the ballots being returned are secure and can be dropped off in convenient locations for our residents," Haines said.
The Ocean County Board of Elections staff will have weekend hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., July 4 and 5 to accept vote by mail ballots in person at their office at 129 Hooper Ave., Toms River.
Quinn added that voters should check their mailboxes for a postcard that will be coming soon listing their polling place location along with important telephone numbers for the Board of Elections and the County Clerk as well as website addresses for last minute information.
While a limited number of polling places will be open on Election Day, only provisional paper ballots will be available at those locations.
"Do not bring your vote-by-mail ballot to the polling place on Election Day and do not expect to vote on a voting machine at the polling place," Haines said.
There will be no sample ballots distributed for this election as in the past but they are available to view on the Ocean County Clerk's website at www.oceancountyclerk.com and will also be posted at the limited number of polling places open on Election Day.
For additional information on voting in the July 7 Primary Election voters are encouraged to visit the Ocean County Clerk website at www.oceancountyclerk.com to view a comprehensive presentation on voting in the 2020 Primary Election or obtain updates and information. You can also call the Ocean County Clerk's office at 732-929-2018 or the Ocean County Board of Elections at 732-929-2167.