County clerk: Voters are a bit angry right now

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

A video showing someone filling out someone else’s mail-in ballot is among the reasons the state attorney general charged four men with fraud in Paterson’s May 12 vote-by-mail election.

Among the accused is Alex Mendez, the top vote getter for Paterson’s Third Ward. The current council seat holder William McKoy sued and a judge barred councilmember-elect Mendez from taking the oath of office at noon Wednesday.

“Ultimately, the judge ruled that, at least at this point, it’s impossible to tell who won the election with any reasonable certainty,” said McKoy’s attorney, Scott Salmon.

Salmon says 20% of Paterson’s municipal ballots were tossed out.

County Clerk Christine Hanlon says there’s an overwhelming negative response to the governor ordering mail-in ballots to registered Democrats and Republicans in Monmouth County and applications to unaffiliated voters all because of the pandemic. She’s had to hire temps and recruit employees from other county departments to help.

“Voters are a bit angry right now. We are getting 600-plus calls per day to our offices because voters are confused. They do not want mail-in ballots. They want to vote in person. They don’t understand why they’re getting ballots,” she said.

However, despite the anger she is predicting a higher turnout than four years ago because vote by mail actually lowers barriers to voting. Each county will have fewer physical polling places. Only those with a disability may vote on a machine. Others can still vote in person but only with a paper provisional ballot.

The governor has lengthened the time to cure faulty ballots, for example to correct and match signatures. Mail-in ballots most have postmarks by July 7. County clerks say vote by mail all boils down to a lot more work for them to certify the results by July 24.

“It’s a lot more involved. There’s a lot more steps. There’s a lot of steps that have been included to benefit the voter, I would say, but it doesn’t benefit people who are eagerly awaiting results,” said Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin.

The lengthy and inconvenient process for July 7 means don’t anticipate a winner on election night.

“We need to get used to the idea that it’s going to take days, maybe even up to a week or 10 days before we’re going to know the outcome of a close election. That’s just the nature of the beast. That’s just he nature of allowing people to vote by mail, for ballots to still come in that are postmarked as of election day to count them all. This is going to take some time. We’re going to have to adjust our expectations,” said Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.

Adjust expectations because political observers anticipate vote by mail is here to stay.