Report Details What Worked, What Didn’t and What Should be Fixed for Upcoming Elections
NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the NAACP New Jersey State Conference and the League of Women Voters of NJ (the “groups”) today released 2020 Primary Post-Election Assessment and Recommendations for Future Elections.
As the country and New Jersey look forward to one of the most urgent elections in our lifetimes, this report details what went well in New Jersey’s July primary election, what issues arose and recommendations for upcoming elections – including in November.
“This is one of the most important election years in a generation. In the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever that we have full access to the democratic process,” said the groups in its assessment. “But like every other aspect of our lives, the pandemic has led to a marked change in the voting process, including the manner in which we cast our votes.”
New Jersey’s municipal elections in May were vote-by-mail only, and the July 7 primary was a hybrid election that ensured both mail-in and in-person voting opportunities.
“While there were certainly marked successes with the process, such as the second-highest voter turnout in the state’s history for a primary, the election was also characterized by confusion, a lack of transparency and public education, and the spread of misinformation,” said the assessment.
The November elections in New Jersey will also be hybrid, using paper ballots that can be cast in five different ways. While there will be no traditional in-person machine voting (except for those with certain disabilities), voters can cast provisional paper ballots at the polls on Election Day.
In reaching the conclusions in the assessment, the groups i) monitored media reporting on issues leading up to, during and after the July election; ii) tracked voter concerns and complaints fielded by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights-run Election Protection (EP) hotline; iii) fielded a survey asking voters about their experiences; and iv) obtained limited poll worker feedback.
The assessment found that issues arose in four areas for New Jersey’s primary election: i) voter registration; ii) polling locations; iii) poll worker training and election misinformation; and (4) vote-by-mail. For each of these areas, the assessment details what went right and what went wrong, and lays out detailed recommendations for how to improve moving forward.
The assessment points out that because voting by mail has traditionally been distrusted by some Black and other voters of color who prefer to cast their ballots in person, it is critical that widespread voter education occur so that all voters know of all five options for voting and that voting at the polls be as accessible as possible.
The assessment pointed out that “as thousands across the state, and millions across America, have taken to the streets in protest to affirm the principle that Black lives matter, it is clear that to really make Black lives matter, every Black vote must be counted in the November election.”
“We are hopeful that, in close collaboration with the New Jersey Secretary of State, elections officials, the Legislature and the Governor, this document can serve as a resource to help ensure that every vote is counted in our upcoming and future elections under the new normal created by COVID-19,” said the groups in the assessment. “As we prepare for one of the most important elections in our time, and as we assess the last few elections leading up to it, it is paramount to prioritize health and safety, while also ensuring full, open and active access to our democracy. It is imperative for elected officials to listen and respond to voter feedback.”
In addition to the work conducted throughout this year and for this assessment, the groups will continue to be on the front lines to ensure that Black lives really matter by ensuring full access to the ballot box this fall and in the future.
A full copy of the assessment can be found here.