Early voting in New Jersey begins Saturday. Here is what you can expect.

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Even though polling day is still more than a week away, it is no longer necessary to wait until then to vote in the next general election. This year, for the first time, New Jersey voters can vote in person, on a voting machine, before Election Day.

The new measure, which opens centralized polling stations in counties for nine consecutive days starting October 23, is called early voting. It’s the third way – after voting in person on Election Day or by mail – Garden State voters can make their choices, and New Jersey joins dozens of other states already offering the option.

Counties had less than a year to establish early voting centers, learn how to use the new equipment and get everything in place before early voting in late October before the November election.

“I don’t know an elected official who hasn’t said, ‘We understand. Early voting takes place across the country. But in some states, it took them 10 years to get it right. It’s April and you want this done for October? So that was a lot… but we did it, ”Ocean County Clerk Scott Collabella said.

After all that, just 6% of New Jersey voters said they would vote early, according to a Monmouth poll last month. Officials suspect this is due to a lack of familiarity with early voting, how it works and its benefits.

“They are confused. They haven’t had a “normal” election for a year and a half. And now they’re discovering something totally new, ”said Beth McGuckin, Ocean County Board Supervisor.

But the New Jersey Elections Division hopes voters remain open-minded.

“The purpose of early voting is convenience, to give voters more choice. There are many people for whom Election Day from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. may not be the best time for them and their families to go and vote. This is your opportunity to do it on a date that is convenient for you, ”said Alicia D’Alessandro, Director of Communications, Elections Division.

NJ Advance Media visited an early voting site in Ocean County for an early voting demonstration, to demystify the process and show voters exactly what to expect when entering an early voting site this year.

Starting Saturday, voters can vote at early polling stations in each county until October 31. Polling stations will be open at least 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday and at least 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. No appointment is necessary.

Each county, depending on its size, will designate a minimum of three to ten polling stations for early in-person voting. Voters must go to a site in their riding. Polling location information is provided by counties and is currently being updated.

One of the many early polls at the Ocean County Library, Toms River branch. Wednesday 20 October 2021.Patti Sapone | Advanced NJ Media

The configuration of advance voting sites may vary slightly depending on location, but the actual advance voting process will be roughly the same statewide.

“You will be able to vote locally, no matter which county site you run in, and it will be very similar, other than the fact that you don’t go to your neighborhood polling station, to what you would feel in an election. day, ”D’Alessandro said.

Simply enter one of the advance polling sites in your county and head to a ‘voting block’ where a council member will be waiting for you to register. This year, each county will have electronic ballot blocks instead of paper registers. they will also stay for election day. There will be no need to turn your head around the room looking for the appropriate registration table for your designated neighborhood – the new voting equipment has a centralized database that allows poll workers to register any registered voter in the county.

As with other forms of voting in New Jersey, voters simply need to show up – no ID is required. Simply provide the board member with your full name and legal residence. After the board member verifies your information and voting eligibility, you will be asked to enter your signature on a tabular screen using a finger or disposable stylist provided.

Using this new technology, council employees can compare the signature provided with previous entries – an additional defense against voter fraud.

If you forget that you have already voted (either on another advance polling site or by mail), the electronic voting system will recognize it immediately and prohibit you from voting. The system can also detect if you did not register correctly, which may prompt the board member to request ID or fill out additional forms.

If you have already registered to vote by mail, the council officer will instead ask you to complete a provisional ballot. The only difference with a provisional ballot is that it is not immediately fed into the compilation machines once completed. Provisional ballots cannot be counted until all mail-in ballots have been received, examined and counted.

Early polling place in Ocean County

One of the many early polls at the Ocean County Library, Toms River branch. Wednesday 20 October 2021.Patti Sapone | Advanced NJ Media

Once the council employee has completed your registration, you will receive a receipt (and, in Ocean County, a white plastic ‘voter card’ needed for their equipment) before you are directed to a machine. to vote. Another board member will then take your receipt and ask you to enter your ballot choices into the electronic voting machine. Each county’s voting machines will be electronic in one way or another, but not all voting machines will necessarily be touchscreen like those in Ocean County.

However, each voting machine will allow you to cast your local ballot, in a format that closely resembles the sample ballot sent to your home.

Early polling place in Ocean County

One of the many early polls at the Ocean County Library, Toms River branch. Wednesday 20 October 2021.Patti Sapone | Advanced NJ Media

Early polling place in Ocean County

One of the many early polls at the Ocean County Library, Toms River branch. Wednesday 20 October 2021.Patti Sapone | Advanced NJ Media

In counties that have adopted touchscreen technology, voters only need to tap the screen to make their selections or type in a candidate’s name in writing and your choice will be filled in in black indicating the selection. . If you accidentally select the wrong candidate or want to change your ballot, you can deselect a choice by tapping this area of ​​the screen again. For those who don’t like new technology, a paper ballot can be printed and filled out by hand on the spot.

Once you’ve made all of your selections, tap the review button in the lower right corner of the screen. If you are satisfied, select “print” in the lower right corner of the screen and a hard copy of your completed ballot will be printed right in front of you. Each county is required to have equipment that prints ballots on demand.

Early polling place in Ocean County

One of many early polls at the Ocean County Library, Toms River branch. Wednesday 20 October 2021.Patti Sapone | Advanced NJ Media

Once the ballot is printed, retrieve it from the machine and place it in the privacy screen given to you by a council employee. You will then be prompted to insert your ballot into a nearby tabulator.

Voters will be invited to enter their ballots in the tabulator. Once you see that your ballot has been counted by the tabulator, the advance voting process is complete.

Early polling place in Ocean County

One of the many early polls at the Ocean County Library, Toms River branch. Wednesday 20 October 2021.Patti Sapone | Advanced NJ Media

Early polling place in Ocean County

One of the many early polls at the Ocean County Library, Toms River branch. Wednesday 20 October 2021.Patti Sapone | Advanced NJ Media

Voters will be exempt from the Election Day mask mandate if their polling station is in a school, according to an executive order from Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Tuesday.

The order requiring masks does not apply until November 2 for polling stations in schools where voting activity cannot be separated from in-person learning. It is not mandatory to wear masks at other polling stations because there is no longer an indoor mask warrant, although the governor has urged people to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says people should wear face coverings indoors.

If you still have questions about early voting, please contact 1-877-NJ-VOTE (1-877-658-6837) or visit the New Jersey Voter Information Portal for more details.

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Jackie Roman can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JacqueRoman.



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