America’s Ugly Election

England, as represented by an article in The Economist this month*, is properly perturbed about our November election since:

America is unusual in the degree of power it gives to Republican and Democratic partisans to administer elections. Decisions over who is removed from lists of eligible voters when they are updated, the design of ballot papers, where polling stations are located, whether early voting is allowed and how many people have to witness a postal vote – things which in other mature democracies are in the hands of non-partisan commissions – are all taken by people with a D or an R by their name. If the election is close then all this will be litigated over, and ultimately end up in courts presided over by judges who have also been appointed by Republican or Democratic governors and presidents.

Pretty scary to an outsider but then the The Economist speculates (with my comment):

If the election is close and there are delays in counting ballots on election night, it could well appear that Mr. Trump is winning in some key states. He might then claim victory (or have Fox do it for him) before the results were in, as he did in Florida’s 2018 mid-terms.

The picture gets uglier when you look at what’s going on in New Jersey on the ground*.

The plan, Ocean County Clerk Scott M. Colabella explained during a tour on Sept. 14, was to keep this human assembly line moving 12 hours a day, seven days a week, until the last of some 450,000 ballots are mailed out to the county’s registered voters, a process expected to take weeks. To build some momentum, it was decided to prepare ballots for the county’s smallest municipalities first, giving workers a sense of accomplishment from seeing towns crossed off the to-do list, one by one.

Wouldn’t the smaller towns also have more Republican voters in this most republican of counties?

But didn’t New Jersey go through this during the primary election in July? Yes, and a lot of those votes are still to be counted.

As a public service:
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Back to the national election, The Economist looked at wag-gaming four different possible election results:

  1. Biden commanding victory
  2. Biden narrow victory
  3. Trump narrow victory, as his previous one was, without a majority of the popular vote
  4. Undetermined result because of contested outcomes in battleground states

In all four scenarios the role playing produced levels of gamesmanship and tumult beyond anything seen in recent American elections. In the narrow-Biden-victory scenario the Secret Service escorted Mr Trump from the White House on inauguration day. It is hard to overestimate what such a sight would mean to Americans – and to the rest of the world.

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** Both these links are subscriber protected by I bought the magazine and subscribe to the Asbury Park Press so here are the full articles as scanned, copied and pasted.

The noise of rustling paper coming from Mancini Hall inside the Ocean County Library headquarters here last week was the sound of a nerve-wracking experiment in American democracy, just getting underway.

Wearing face masks and blue latex gloves, more than 20 county workers sat quietly at folding tables spaced six feet apart, methodically turning seemingly endless piles of paper into teetering stacks of sealed ballots, ready for mailing.

The plan, Ocean County Clerk Scott M. Colabella explained during a tour on Sept. 14, was to keep this human assembly line moving 12 hours a day, seven days a week, until the last of some 450,000 ballots are mailed out to the county’s registered voters, a process expected to take weeks.

To build some momentum, it was decided to prepare ballots for the county’s smallest municipalities first, giving workers a sense of accomplishment from seeing towns crossed off the to-do list, one by one.

“As you can see, we almost have half the county done — geographically — but look, it’s only 21,000 (ballots),” Colabella said, observing the incremental progress.

“We haven’t even gotten to Toms River, Lakewood or Brick. To start with one of those bigger towns, the morale would be, I think, well …” he said, finishing the thought with a shake of his head. Ballots for registered voters in Brick, Toms River and South Toms were scheduled to be the last mailed out, on or about Oct. 5, according to the county’s schedule.

There promises to be a lot of head shaking and sighing in the coming weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 general election.

For the first time ever, hundreds of thousands of voters in Ocean and Monmouth counties will cast mail-in or provisional paper ballots, in accordance with Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order, later codified by the New Jersey Legislature, that sets up mostly mail-in voting for the Nov. 3 general election to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Murphy didn’t sign the order until Aug. 14, giving public officials responsible for conducting elections in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties an extremely tight window to work out all the logistics.

Making it happen will cost an extra $1 million or more in each of the Shore counties beyond what was budgeted for a typically heavier turnout in a presidential election year, election officials say. As of last week, officials were still wrestling with manpower needs, equipment issues and chain of custody measures to ensure the security and confidentiality of all voters’ ballots.

“If we’re going to move to an all vote-by-mail election, the least desirable time to do it is a presidential election,” said Eileen Kean, a commissioner on the Monmouth County Board of Elections.

She predicted the work of tabulating this election’s results would be “the hanging chads of Florida all over,” a reference to the bitterly contested presidential election of 2000, finally won by Republican George W. Bush.

Voters in smaller Ocean County towns began receiving their ballots in the mail last week. Officials are urging voters to fill out their ballots and return them as soon as possible to avoid a last-minute crush. Predicting how many will do that is next to impossible.

“Our greatest fear,” Kean said, “is that we’re going to have 350,000 ballots sent out by mail and 350,000 decide to drop them in the mail on Nov. 1, and we get killed because we get all the ballots at the same time.”

Will your vote count?

No one in Ocean County’s political establishment wanted a mail-in election. But earlier this summer, Colabella, a Republican who had served as a political aide to Gov. Tom Kean in the 1980s, realized that Murphy and his staff were moving in that direction.

He recalled a conference call with the Democratic governor’s staff and other county clerks in late July, where participants were asked for “out of the box” ideas on how to pull off an in-person election in the middle of a pandemic.

Colabella had some suggestions, as did others on the line. One of his ideas called for a massive outreach to recruit college students — who are more likely to be resilient against the novel coronavirus — to become poll workers for both the $200 per diem rate and for college credit.

Colabella suggested partnering with major retailers to allow big box stores to be converted into polling places, since their staffs have practical experience managing lines of people during the pandemic. His reasoning was that if people could stand line in line at Walmart or ShopRite, surely they could stand in line and vote on Election Day. This would be coupled with a public advertising campaign to guide those who were leery about going out to the polls on how to request and fill out a mail-in ballot. Watch the video below for guidance on how to vote by mail.

The big box store idea received a lukewarm reception, Colabella said. He came away feeling from the phone call more certain that Murphy was about to order a mail-in election, and alerted his staff to get ready.

Ocean County had budgeted an additional $40,000 for this year’s election, because of the presidential race. Now it expects it will need an extra $1.6 million when all is said and done. Monmouth’s election board pegs its added expense at $1.1 million, and Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon estimated her office will have to spend an extra $500,000, adding up to a similar $1.6 million price tag for Monmouth County.

“I don’t have the final costs but It’s going to be around there ($500,000) because I also had to hire additional staff, and instead of sending out maybe up to 50,000, 60,000 mail-in ballots, it’s going to be probably over 450,000,” Hanlon said. “From my side of things the biggest cost driver is going to be the postage and the return postage and the mail-in ballot packet.”

Colabella has had to worry about more than how he’d round up one million envelopes (half to mail out the ballots, the other half to mail them back to the county.)

Mail-in balloting creates opportunities for voting irregularities and fraud. There are dead people on the voter rolls and each of them would be mailed a ballot at their last address with partisan bureaucrats to decide whether signatures matched if there was a challenge or a close race.

Moreover, the county clerk’s office didn’t have the staff or the space needed for such a massive operation at a time when mortgages, deeds and passports are still being processed.

The challenge would be anticipating problems before they became a problem.

“It’s like playing catch up at every end so you don’t get stuck anywhere,” Colabella said.

A big issue for both counties is manpower. Monmouth County’s Board of Elections has plans to hire an extra 100 to 150 election workers in the coming weeks. Ocean County doesn’t anticipate hiring extra workers at this time, and is trying to make do with its existing staff. The Ocean County workers stuffing envelopes on Sept. 14 had been pulled in from its departments of Consumer Affairs, Building and Grounds, Engineering, Human Services, and the Tax Board. All were being paid overtime.

After all of the current registered voters have been sent a mail-in ballot from the clerk’s office, Ocean County’s Mancini Hall will be converted into a polling station for those who register in October but too late to get their mail-in ballot through the mail.

And voters can still go to a local polling place in their towns on Election Day, Colabella noted. Half of all polling places in each municipality in the county will be opened on Nov. 3. The difference is that the voting machines will only be available for use to those who have disabilities.

Everyone else can either deliver their mail-in ballot to the polling place or fill out a provisional ballot (a paper ballot used at polling places) by hand. The latter option isn’t the best, officials say, because provisional ballots can become a legal issue once they’re filled out to make certain the voter has not previously submitted a mail-in ballot.

If a voter is uncomfortable mailing their mail-in ballot and does not want to go hunting for a polling place on Election Day, there will be as many as 17 “secure ballot drop boxes” placed throughout the county that will be under electronic surveillance, Colabella said. The locations are available on the election board’s website.

Monmouth County also has set up 17 drop boxes, the locations of which are on its website. They became accessible to voters last week.

The ballots from each of these drop-off boxes are to be collected each day and transferred to the election board’s offices in each county.

The Ocean County Board of Freeholders approved contracts on Wednesday to purchase almost $50,000 for the installation of surveillance equipment to monitor the drop box sites.

Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines said the county was exploring the possibility of deploying sheriff’s officers to protect the ballot boxes on election night after the polls close, but no decision has been made yet.

Ocean County Administrator Carl W. Block, who himself is a former Ocean County clerk, said the ballots will be scanned by the Board of Elections and the machines are relatively fast.

Block said the numerous other issues are still being worked out because many of the legal issues in the new law are subject to interpretation, or weren’t addressed by those who crafted the rules for this election.

“We’re going to have four to five trucks on the road every day — now you need two people in each truck, a Democrat and a Republican,” Block said. “But there are questions that have to be answered. If we’ve got staff from the Board of Elections driving around the county each day, picking up ballots, who’s going to be back here, processing the ballots? We’re sending out 450,000 ballots.”

The county anticipates that as many as 75% of the ballots will be received back through the mail and the county is acquiring three additional scanners to the six the election board already has, Block said.

Election officials in Monmouth County explained that election workers have to verify the signatures on all the ballots arriving by mail. Sometimes a signature doesn’t match up, or a reference signature the county has on file will be unreadable.

“Oftentimes, what we have on record is chicken scratch, so we have to send a letter to the voter saying we can’t verify that this is your signature,” said Kean, the election board commissioner.

If that’s the case the board has to send the voter a “cure” letter with instructions for how to verify their information.

Ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 that arrive at boards of elections by Nov. 10 will be considered valid, according to Murphy’s order. Ballots with no postmarks, or mismarked ballots that post offices receive by Nov. 3, will be accepted up until 48 hours after the polls close.

Voters who wish to track their mail-in ballot may do so by registering online with the New Jersey Division of Elections.

“This is very, very challenging. But with that said, the Monmouth County Board of Elections will uphold the integrity of the election, and every vote will count and every ballot will be properly inspected,” Kean said. “Opportunities to cure the ballot will be given. So every voter will have the opportunity to get their vote to count.”

Hanlon also said the election results would be trustworthy.

“We have really dedicated, hardworking people who work in the election realm day in and day out, and this election is no different,” she said. “All of those people take an oath to effectuate an election with integrity — I’m summarizing, but that’s the idea — and there is an entire system of checks and balances that’s worked into the process that the election officials follow to ensure that there’s integrity in the process.”

For example, while county clerks in New Jersey process applications to vote by mail in typical years, and will send out ballots this year, it is the county boards of elections that do the work of verifying signatures and counting ballots.

When will we know the results?

Colabella said he plans to have preliminary Ocean County results with projected winners available on election night just as there were after the July primary. Under the new law, election officials will be able to start tabulating received mail-in votes 10 days ahead of Election Day, he said.

“We will have some results,” on election night, Freeholder Haines said. “And we might even know from president on down who has won — at least in Ocean County.”

The final tally may take weeks for both counties to tabulate, however. To allow more time for county boards of elections to count ballots under the new circumstances, Murphy pushed the deadline to certify election results from Nov. 23 until Dec. 4. The final votes will be needed on Dec. 14 when the New Jersey’s Electoral College delegation meets.

“The more people who go to the polling locations, the longer it’s going to take,” Kean said.

“This is going to be extremely difficult,” Kean said. “It saddens me that a vote by mail system is being put in place for a presidential election. … It is something that takes time, planning to perfect it, and to make sure it’s not a difficult process. In Monmouth County it took us three weeks to do the primary and that’s probably one-third of the ballots that we’re going to have for November.”

16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tough Love on September 21, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    Quoting ………….

    “In the narrow-Biden-victory scenario the Secret Service escorted Mr Trump from the White House on inauguration day. It is hard to overestimate what such a sight would mean to Americans – and to the rest of the world.”

    I would be cheering at the top of my lungs ………… “YOU’RE FIRED”.

    Reply

    • Posted by Rex the Wonder Dog! 🐶🐶🐶🦴🦴🦴🐕 🐕 🐕 on September 21, 2020 at 3:54 pm

      I would be cheering at the top of my lungs ………… “YOU’RE FIRED DELUSIONAL TL”.
      Fixed TL 🙂
      BTW, Trump signs out number Sleepy Joe signs 10, maybe even 20 to 1, all over So Cal. I RARELY see Biden signs. That shocked me, and still does shock me. Not what I expected at all.
      .
      This is very weird because in 2016 it was RARE to see a Trump sign on the lawn, and tons of Billary signs everywhere. It was the opposite in 2016, maybe 5 or 10 to 1 Billary signs over Trump signs. I am telling you right now, Biden is going to get KILLED November 3, 2020. GAME OVER, mark my words…I think the BLM/Antifa VIOLENCE was the game changer. Seeing knuckleheads like Nader and Krazee Nancy claim there was NO violence going on in Portland, Seattle, NYC when the news showed DAILY rioting was the turning point IMO. When those boneheads REFUSED to even acknowledge that kind of violence much less CONDEMN it, that was the beginning of the end for Sleepy Joe.

      TL, the Times, they are a changin!

      Reply

    • Posted by Anonymous on September 21, 2020 at 6:54 pm

      Only a odious dolt as yourself would!.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Tough Love on September 21, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    Off Topic ……………..

    So who is now running the show at the CDC, the scientists, or is it the ORANGE man and his henchmen ?

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/21/health/cdc-reverts-airborne-transmission-guidance/index.html

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on September 21, 2020 at 2:21 pm

      https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/21/health/us-coronavirus-monday/index.html
      ____________________________________

      “We may be in for a very apocalyptic fall, I’m sorry to say,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

      “And it’s happening because we’re forcing schools to reopen in areas of high transmission. We’re forcing colleges to reopen, and we don’t have the leadership nationally, telling people to wear masks and to social distance and do all the things we need to do.”
      —————————

      Don’t count on any help from the ORANGE man

      Reply

  3. https://nypost.com/2020/09/21/aocs-socialist-brigade-has-a-plan-to-take-over-new-york-city/

    I know you hate him TL, but would you prefer this? A 50% defunding of Nypd.
    Rent forgiveness that FORCES landlords to sell their properties to the state (presumably because they or no one else for that matter could make a profit off of them.)
    Increased representation of minority communities (whatever that means).
    And an increase in socialist representation among the three biggest public sector unions. Such as the teachers union so the socialist dogma permeates the populace. No thanks.
    Trump 2020.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on September 21, 2020 at 2:37 pm

      If you REALLY believe that there would be a 50% reduction in NYC Police funding*, you’re an idiot.

      * lol, other than perhaps via pension/benefit elimination (but only a 50% to 75% reduction would be better AND APPROPRIATE).

      Reply

      • Posted by Rex the Wonder Dog! 🐶🐶🐶🦴🦴🦴 on September 21, 2020 at 4:30 pm

        If you REALLY believe that there would be a 50% reduction in NYC Police funding*, you’re an idiot.
        ==
        If you count lid off, furloughed PoPo it could easily pass the 50% mark. It is not out of the question IMO to see a 50% drop in tax revenue in the next 12-24 months. Covid-19 is in a ramping up curve, and will continue that curve because the shutdown has not even ended, and the fact is more and more people are going BK. And the same with Businesses. They say 75% of ALL restaurants and Hotels could shut down permanently. Disneyland is mad a hell because they have lost billions in revenue, and are starting to worry about their future. When the biggest employer in Orange County starts shitting their financial-pants, then everyone in America should worry too.

        Reply

    • Posted by NJ2AZ on September 21, 2020 at 3:29 pm

      E,

      I say let them. Let them attempt to build their utopia. If they somehow succeed god bless and if they turn NY back into a shithole like it was a few decades ago, they will own it and their failure will be on full display.

      I’m hoping Trump nominates a conservative woman of color for the open SCOTUS seat. Make Team Blue show their true colors attacking her while also forcing them to run on a promise to pack the court and see how it plays out.

      Reply

    • Posted by Rex the Wonder Dog! 🐶🐶🐶🦴🦴🦴 on September 21, 2020 at 4:22 pm

      I know you hate him TL, but would you prefer this? A 50% defunding of Nypd.
      Rent forgiveness that FORCES landlords to sell their properties to the state (presumably because they or no one else for that matter could make a profit off of them.)

      I said this at month #2 of this lock down BULLSHIT, there is a cost/benefit ration to everything, including locking down our country. And that cost/benefit ratio has turned America into Kommie Central. Covid-19 is LIMITED to a very SMALL %, tiny, minute, microscopic, portion of the American Population. Biggest “at-risk” groups: 1) Older citizens; and 2) those that have pre-existing conditions. Especially respiratory conditions.The chances of DYING from Covid-19 for the normal American is microscopic. And what we have done is destroyed our fucking entire economy, driven UP suicides and drug abuse, and sent our GDP and TAX BASE into hell. The DOWNSIDE was, and is, 100 times WORSE than the small upside from this ridiculous lock down. Not a SINGLE person under age 18 has died from Covid-19. NOT ONE. I read a study a few days ago that said the fatality rate for a specific make age group (45-55?? must find study!) was in the millions to 1.

      We are not going to have to worry about “defunding” the PoPo, or any other public employee group, the simple fact is there is NOT going to be any $$$ to pay their (grossly above market) base salaries, much less the additional 40%-150% of their base salary “benefit” expenses. Unless the PoPo, and ALL public employees, are going to work for free they are going to be taking MAJOR “defunding” haircuts, MAJOR! Because the tax base, and the source of revenue to fund gov, is gone. And I have a very bad feeling it will take several years, maybe even a decade, to recover economically from the China virus. I think this civil unrest we see is a small part of what is driving the violence and despair among a small segment of the population. I think the Dim’s insane leadership, Krazee Nancy, has fucked the country up close to beyond repair by her bullshit political nonsense, and the daily violence we see is a direct result of her and her knucklehead cronies. NEWSFLASH, if Krazee Nancy and the Dim’s DON’T LIKE the Trump policies, or Trump, and ANYTHING ELSE, then the proper procedure is to CONVINCE the PUBLIC there should be a change and get that change through the process we set up in 1776, elections. BUT STOP pulling political Kabuki Theater bullshit like “impeachment” nonsense that had ZERO chance of success and was just a political MANEUVER TO HARM Trump’s POLICIES. Impeachment that did NOTHING but divide the country in the Dim’s futile attempt to get rid of Trump by means OTHER than direct democracy- vote Trump, or anyone else you disagree with, OUT of OFFICE. But if trump wins, again, then sit down and STFU and let him do the job he was duly elected to do through the process we have used for 250 years. I have a feeling the Repugs may take control of the House, because I think Krazee Nancy has misjudged the swing voters-big time. I think th 20-1 trump over Biden signs is a telling sign of the upcoming election. Plus Biden as a HORRIBLE/TERRIBLE pick. I still recall his pathetic 1988 run, it was a disaster. When Obama picked Biden as VP I was shocked, based on his 1988 run for President. That’s my story, and i’m sticking to it.

      Reply

      • After all the productive people leave, the nyc socialist experiment will fail. They will petition the state to help them as well as the federal govt.
        the nypd will be dufunded in part because the job will be awful. Maybe they replace them will socialist cops? Who knows.

        Reply

  4. Posted by Rex the Wonder Dog! 🐶🐶🐶🦴🦴🦴 on September 21, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    I have voted by absentee ballot for the last 15 years, mainly because my polling station was changed to a distant location, I would prefer to vote in person at the local precinct/station. But my ballot has not arrived yet. WHY do these idiots wait so long to send them out. We are less than 45 days out

    Reply

  5. Looks like a big problem in Louisville. State of emergency and boarded up public buildings.
    No bill coming? No charges? Between that and Ginsburg the place will be a lightening rod for “peaceful” protests. 🤔
    Here we go again.

    Reply

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