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Despite some security concerns, the state announced the change to make it easier for voters who may have been forced by flooding, power outages or other storm damage to temporarily leave their communities. The directive also is intended to help emergency workers who are busy with disaster-relief efforts away from home.
New Jersey residents displaced by Superstorm Sandy will be allowed to vote in Tuesday’s elections via e-mail or fax, the first time civilians in the state have been allowed to vote remotely.
To vote electronically, displaced voters may submit a mail-in ballot application either by e-mail or fax to their county clerk. Once an application is approved, the clerk will electronically send a ballot to the voter by either fax or e-mail in accordance to the voter’s preference. Voters must return their electronic ballot – by fax or email – no later than November 6, 2012, at 8 p.m.
Separate directives issued today enable displaced voters and first responders to vote by provisional ballot at a polling place in a county other than the voter’s county of registration. The deadline for county clerks to receive mail-in ballots has been extended to November 19, 2012, for any ballot postmarked on or before November 5, 2012. Mail-in ballots post marked later than November 5 will not be accepted.
Some New Jersey election watchdog groups are worried about the security of letting displaced New Jersey residents vote by email, the Associated Press reports. Rutgers-Newark Law School Professor Penny Venetis says that when New Jersey residents living overseas vote by email, they also must send a paper ballot so that vote-counters can verify the results. She says that she wants New Jersey election officials to put in place the same rules for people displaced by last week’s storm to vote online.
Venetis says that if the state does not clarify the rules, election advocates might file a lawsuit later Monday to try to force the state to use the overseas-voter rules for displaced voters.
State election officials have been silent on the issue.