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New Jersey’s email voting option backfires, e-voters stranded in confusion

This is why we can’t have nice things: Yesterday, with last-minute notice, New Jersey residents found they would be able to vote by email given the circumstances post-Hurricane Sandy. Theoretically, this seemed like a viable solution. Except it has gone terrible wrong.

Aside from the obvious security issues of voting fraud, county election administrators are now reporting that the email at which voters can request electronic ballots from are full and thus cannot respond to interested e-voters. Some New Jersey county officials have taken to Facebook to allow voters to request e-ballots from their personal email accounts, but we can’t imagine one person has the man power to sift through all the responses in a timely manner. 

Even if New Jersey residents were able to obtain an electronic ballot, they would also be required to send in paper ballots by mail as soon as possible to register against voting fraud. Of course, this is difficult for voters who’ve had to evacuate their homes and have limited resources.

The chaos also makes it confusing for voters overseas and for anyone trying to get an election day-related question answered by electronic means. With the official county mailboxes full, voters are not only unable to retrieve e-ballots, they can’t even contact officials to find a local, physical poll booth in their area or know what to do when all else fails.

“If you’re going to do something like this, you have to do it right,” Wired editor Jason Tanz, a resident of NJ’s Essex county, told Buzzfeed. “This was obviously a rush job, and I’m sure thousands of people won’t be able to vote because they couldn’t figure out where to send their applications, and couldn’t get anyone to tell them.”

In the mean time, Ernie Landante, a spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Elections, said “authorized messengers” would be allowed to pick up multiple mail-in ballots from those living in shelters and deliver them to the voting booths.

“We are doing everything we can in this extraordinary situation not to disenfranchise voters displaced by Sandy. Their voices and their votes will be heard no differently than anyone else’s,” Landante said. It’s a hopeful effort by the state, but for those still experiencing limited power, the confusion is infinitely multiplied.

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