Five days before Election Day, Gov. Christie made a bold and groundbreaking decision to allow for in-person early voting at county clerk’s offices across the state of NJ. He followed that up with an even bolder directive three days before Election Day, allowing email/fax voting of those displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Hoboken experienced massive devastation from this natural disaster and I applaud the governor’s swift and forward-thinking move.
Before Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, this was gearing up to be Hoboken’s most confusing election in our history. We were given the opportunity to vote on an incredibly full ballot, including choosing a U.S. President, U.S. Senator, U.S. Congressional Representative, Hudson County Clerk, three Board of Education Trustees, and five very detailed ballot questions. We were asked to do this without receiving sample ballots and while receiving misinformation from local elected officials telling us that all polling places had stayed the same. This created mass confusion at the polls, causing many to go to the wrong polling places, and many of these to be illegally turned away. To further the confusion, training courses for poll workers, which are required by law and usually happen months before Election Day, were canceled and too many voter’s did not receive proper guidance. This resulted in over 1,000 provisional ballots and countless voters, especially in our poorest districts, being turned away from voting.
I empathize with the county clerk’s office being swamped with fax/email requests and not being able to manage the load. But I cannot understand not following the simple requirements leading up to the election – sample ballots being sent in a timely fashion, proper training for poll workers, proper announcement of polling places, etc. I am calling for a full investigation and for those responsible for this inaction to be held accountable.
Whether or not this election brings up countless legal issues on how to count the votes, I am hopeful that our election officials will follow Gov. Christie’s clear directive, stated while visiting the Elks in Hoboken, that this election was “not to be an email election and this type of voting was for those truly displaced.” The rules called for voters to include proof on how they were displaced, and I hope our election officials follow the rules. Counting all in Hoboken as displaced except the poor and elderly is a blatant disregard for the public trust.
It’s a shame our local and county officials didn’t allow Gov. Christie to venture back to the Housing Authority or the senior buildings that were still without power on the day he visited the Hoboken Elks.
Maybe he would have agreed with Doug Kellner, co-chairman of the New York State Board of Elections, when he said (Star Ledger/nj.com; Nov. 6, 2012) that officials there concluded the risks of e-mail ballots were too great. “Especially in this type of emergency, when there’s a lack of electrical service, there’s a question of fairness for those who are on the other side of the digital divide,” Kellner said. “There are those who do not have electricity or the resources to power a printer.”
The national election has been decided. Hopefully, our local officials will call upon the county to do what’s right and protect the voices of those most in need.
Jamie Cryan, Chairman
Hoboken Democratic Committee