Despite personal hardships, shifting polling sites, frustration and anger over electronic and provisional ballots, and confusion and miscommunication regarding new voting rules, New Jerseyans made on thing clear on Tuesday: they wanted to exercise their right to vote.
Turnout was high throughout much of the state, despite reports of voting irregularities that included jammed fax lines; email inboxes filled to overflowing with requests for ballots; shortages of provisional ballots at many sites; and gloomy polling places lit only by generator power.
And that's the short list.
“We have so little control over anything right now,” said one Romney voter from Belmar whose power was restored just last night. “That made it all the more important to me to come here and take advantage of our ability to exercise control over something this meaningful.”
That sentiment was echoed by many in the Garden State, even those whose homes or businesses were decimated by Superstorm Sandy.
More Ways to Get the Vote Out
Despite the many problems voters encountered on Tuesday, which are sure to affect local elections -- if not the presidential and congressional elections -- many praised the state’s attempt to give residents more ways to cast their ballots.
“This was an extraordinary election,” said Kerry Margaret Butch, executive director of the New Jersey League of Women Voters.
“We saw a lot of [irregular] activity, but given the number of people displaced, I have to applaud the efforts of the state," she added.
Not all residents were as pleased, particularly with the problem of electronic voting.
Lt. Governor and Secretary of State Kim Guadagno had issued an order to allow voters to request an electronic ballot from their county clerk’s office via fax or email. Initially, displaced voters were told they would be sent an official ballot by the same method and that they would have to return it by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
But due to complaints that fax lines did not pick up and email was not returned, the Division of Elections extended the deadline for response by county clerk’s offices until Friday at noon. Voters will have until 8 p.m. on Friday to submit ballots.
“Our fax machine is burnt out,” said Eva O. Yanez, Essex County election supervisor, who started receiving email and fax ballots on Monday. But her office was also trying to field calls from voters who were nervous that their ballots had gotten lost in cyberspace.
Due to the widespread confusion about electronic voting and shifting polling places -- Essex County alone moved 57 sites -- voters were being advised by election watchers such as the American Civil Liberties Union to request a provisional ballot from any polling place in the state. Even if the ballot did not include local races, statewide votes would still be recorded.
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