For those of you who are unaware, one of the accommodations made for displaced voters in Morris County during yesterday’s election included the ability to vote via e-mail. Well, as a registered voter in Morris County who spends approximately one to two days each month in my hometown, I thought that the opportunity to vote via e-mail was the best thing since sliced bread! Oh, how wrong I was…
Here is a look at the interaction (or lack thereof) that I had with the Morris County Clerk’s office. First, the information that they posted on their website:
EMAIL APPLICATIONS TO ASMITH@CO.MORRIS.NJ.US OR FAX APPLICATIONS WITH EMAIL ADDRESS TO 973-285-5233
BALLOTS WILL BE SENT TO YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS
RETURN BALLOT TO BALLOTSUBMISSION@CO.MORRIS.NJ.US OR FAX TO 973-984-8412
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HURRICAN SANDY DISPLACEMENT VOTER njelection.org
APPLICATIONS MUST BE SUBMITTED NO LATER THAN 5PM NOV.6TH 2012.(EMIAL/FAX)
THE VOTERS MUST TRANSMIT THE SIGNED WAIVER OF SECRECY ALONG WITH THE VOTED BALLOT BY FAX OR EMAIL FOR RECEIPT BY BOARD OF ELECTION NO LATER THAN NOV.9,2012 AT 8P.M.
Okay. Easy enough, right? According to the information above, all I have to do is send a copy of the application (which was readily available on the county website) after I filled it out. Which I did as you’ll see below. This is the e-mail I sent to the Morris County Clerk’s office at 7:57pm on Monday, November 5th:
Subject: Application for E-Mail Voting – Borough of Mount Arlington
Attached to this message please find my application to vote in tomorrow’s election via e-mail. You may reach me at this e-mail address or on my cell phone if you have any questions. I look forward to receiving my ballot via e-mail and voting in tomorrow’s election.
I sat there and I waited – patiently – for a response from the County Clerk. Frankly, I just wanted my ballot sent to me via e-mail – I didn’t need any discussion! I figured that the ballot would be sent my way at some point the following morning. Well, the next morning came and went and I kept on waiting. It was 12:00pm on Election Day – I heard nothing from them. It was 1:00pm on Election Day – I heard nothing. And then, right before 2:00pm (it was 1:52pm to be exact), I couldn’t take it any more. I sent the following e-mail to the County Clerk’s office:
I e-mailed my application to vote by e-mail ballot last night at approximately 8:00pm. I have not heard back from anyone at the clerk’s office, so I am going to my polling place in Mount Arlington instead. As such, I withdraw my application to vote by e-mail for this election.
This system is obviously not ready for use by the public. You should not have made it available for this election, regardless of the demands coming from Trenton.
A few minutes after I sent this message I got in my car, drove to Mount Arlington, voted (in less than 3 minutes), and then went to my family’s place to hang out for a bit. And in case you were wondering whether or not the Morris County Clerk ever got in touch with me to explain what was going on… no, they didn’t get in touch with me. On Twitter, they noted that they received thousands of requests for these e-mail ballots. By the utter lack of communication that I received from them, I would imagine that they didn’t really have that many people confirming the applications that were received and then sending out those specific ballots. I stick by my comment in my second e-mail: this process was not ready for prime time and should not have been made available to the public as a viable voting option.
Think about this – if every person’s vote counts, then those “thousands” of people who request an e-mail ballot probably don’t have their votes counted yet. And they certainly didn’t have their votes counted last night. In fact, the MorrisElectionResults.org website shows that zero of those ballots have been as of 11:23pm last night.
In other words, if you voted by e-mail ballot, absentee ballot, or provisional ballot and you’re a Morris County voter… then your vote didn’t count this year. Oh sure, eventually your vote will be counted and added to the totals, but at that point the concessions have been made and the majority of the elections are over and no longer waiting for your vote to count. Imagine if those thousands of e-mail ballots, absentee ballots, and provisional ballots all voted for the same candidates in one of the countywide, statewide, or national elections. Those accumulated votes might not have been enough to sway an election, but it might be enough to suggest that a victory which was reported (for example) as 65% for one candidate and 35% for the other candidate was actually 55% for one candidate and 45% for the other. That change in total votes is a big, big deal and directly impacts the post-election discussion!
And here’s the thing – I like the Morris County Clerk’s office. I think that they’re probably the most efficient clerk’s office in the state (I deal with several of county clerk offices and the team in Morris County is really among the best, if not the best in the state). But I don’t like that they made the e-mail option available for yesterday’s election. I know that it was somewhat pushed on them by Trenton, but it wasn’t ready for wide use by the public and that gives an otherwise great clerk’s office an unfortunate, temporary black eye.