OCEAN COUNTY – Members of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners would like the state Legislature and Governor Phil Murphy to end the use of ballot drop boxes for all upcoming elections.
The governor mandated the ballot drop boxes through the issuance of Executive Orders 144 and 177 and subsequently passed by the Legislature. Murphy signed their use into a state law in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners John P. Kelly said, “these ballot drop boxes mandated by the Governor in May of 2020 have created concerns amongst votes who are raising legitimate issues over election security. , we are asking the state to eliminate the use of these ballot drop boxes. ”
Although residents have expressed concerns, there have not been any official statement alleging election impropriety in Ocean County during the pandemic.
On May 18, the Ocean County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution calling for the repeal of the state’s Executive Order that mandated the ballot drop boxes. The Board noted that in Ocean County, questions had been raised about drop box security, in particular after security cameras focused on the box at the Brick Township Municipal Building failed.
“This is paramount for votes here. We want our residents to be confident that their vote counts and that the election results on all levels in Ocean County are accurate,” Kelly added.
The resolution notes that the lack of clear and concise guidance in the Executive Order and Ballot Drop Box law has created confusion and contradictions within other record retention rules and regulations including retention schedules relating to the Open Public Records Act.
Ocean County has 19 drop boxes in 17 locations most of which are outside at branches of the Ocean County Library.
The resolution by the Board of Commissioners notes that the State mandated use of ballot drop boxes have created “unnecessary costs” in the election process and requires counties to expend funds and resources to comply with, among other cumbersome regulations, the daily retrieval of ballots, frequency of ballot retrieval, staffing requirements, surveillance and security costs, data storage and public access to live security feeds.
Commissioner Viriginia Haines said, “the guidance received by the Ocean County Board of Elections, which oversees the ballot drop boxes, from the state of New Jersey was never clear or concise.”
Haines, who serves as liaison to the Board of Elections added, “it’s difficult to respond properly to our constituents when the rules have been confusing from the start.”
The resolution calls upon the Governor and state Legislature to immediately adopt legislation repealing PL 2020 c. 72 “and bring integrity back to the election process,” she added.
Kelly pointed out that, “when this went into effect in 2020 many votes voiced their concerns to the Board of Commissioners since the state just sort of shut down in-person voting the first year of the pandemic. With many pandemic generated mandates lifted, and all the questions this continues to pose, it’s time for this mandate to go too. ”