On Friday Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 144 ordering the July 7 Primary Election be conducted primarily by vote-by-mail ballots with at least one polling location open in each municipality.
Vote-by-mail ballots will automatically be sent to all “active” registered Democratic and Republican voters without applying for the vote-by-mail ballots. Vote-by-mail applications will automatically be sent to all “active” voters who are registered as Unaffiliated and all “inactive” registered Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliated voters. All vote-by-mail applications and return envelopes will have prepaid postage.
The order also suspends the requirement that vote-by-mail ballots be counted prior to the closing of polls. Instead ballots may continue to be counted beyond the close of polls and continue until the counting is completed. To be considered valid the vote-by-mail ballot must be postmarked on or before July 7, 2020 and received by 8:00 p.m. on July 14, 2020. Please note vote by mail ballots may not be returned to the polling location.
The order also suspends the requirement to mail sample ballots. Instead the appropriate county official will send a notice of the voter’s polling place, information on where to obtain a sample ballot prior the election, a statement indicating that a sample ballot will be available at the polling place on the day of the election, and, if applicable, information on a county website where a sample ballot may be viewed.
Each county will be responsible for securing at least 5 ballot drop boxes and place them in locations that are readily accessible to the registered voters within the county. The security of the ballot drop boxes and schedule of ballot pickup must conform to the standards established by the Secretary of State.
In addition, each county must open at a minimum at least one polling place in each municipality. Provided that sufficient poll workers are available, each county must open a minimum of 50% of its polling place. The county may open more than the minimum number of polling places. The County Board of Elections should select polling places based on geographic location and population density to best serve the voters of each municipality. Any voter who appears at a polling place on Primary Day must vote by a provisional ballot, except that a voter with disabilities may vote on an ADA-accessible voting machine.
The deadline to certify polling location for July 7 Primary Election is June 15, 2020. The deadline to certify polling locations for the remainder year is extended to September 15, 2020.
The County Board of Elections must ensure that polling places and poll workers implement, at a minimum, the following requirements:
· Limit occupancy to a number that permit voters to maintain 6 feet distance between each other and poll worker;
· Ensure 6 feet distance between voters as well as between voters and poll workers by demarcation of 6 feet of spacing in voter lines and poll workers stations;
· Place conspicuous signage at entrances and throughout the polling place alerting poll workers and voters to the required six feet of physical distance
· Require infection control practice;
· Provide poll workers break time for repeated handwashing throughout their shifts;
· Require frequent sanitization of high touch areas in polling places consistent with CDC guidelines;
· Provide sanitization materials such as hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes to poll workers, voters and those accompanying voters;
· Require poll workers to adhere to CDC guidelines as of July 7 regarding face coverings while in the polling place and require poll workers to wear gloves when in contact with voter. Both the face coverings and gloves are to be provided by the County; and
· Strongly encourage voters to adhere to adhere to CDC guidelines as of July 7 regarding face coverings while in the polling place, however, entry into the polling location cannot be denied for not wearing a face covering.
In regards to poll workers, the order suspends the statutory requirement that poll workers reside in the same county as they are a poll worker.
The Secretary of State and county election officials, as appropriate, must coordinate with the United States Postal Service to facilitate proper delivery of ballots. The statutory time restrictions for delivery of vote by mail is suspended and vote by mail ballots must be mailed in compliance with the schedule prepare by the Secretary of State. Vote by mail ballots must be processed and canvassed in accordance with CDC, State Department of Health and County Health Department guidelines.
The Order also extends various timeframe including the certificate election results, filing election contest petition, and filling of recount petition by five days.
Secretary of State must establish a hotline number to report violations of Election Laws and this Executive Order for the July Primary.