There’s less than a week until Election Day and more than 2.6 million ballots have already been cast in New Jersey, according to Gov. Phil Murphy.
That amounts to 67 percent of the voter turnout in 2016 and stems from the state holding its first mostly mail-in election.
Murphy, a Democrat, cited COVID-19 when he signed an order in August calling for all active registered voters to get a ballot in the mail.
State officials also rolled out an online voter registration tool for the first time this year, which they say has been popular with voters. Registration closed Oct. 13.
Voters can cast their ballot by sending it back through the mail, dropping it in one of at least 10 official drop boxes in each county, hand-delivering it to their county election office or taking it in person to their polling place on Election Day. Polls are open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
Voters can check the state Division of Elections website for their polling place since each county will operate at least 50 percent of its normal locations, under the COVID-19 changes.
Also on the ballot
In addition to the president, voters will be electing a U.S. senator and their U.S. House representative. New Jersey also has three ballot questions: legalizing recreational marijuana, delaying the legislative redistricting if the Census is delayed, and giving a property tax break for veterans who served during peacetime.
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by President Donald Trump’s campaign that had sought to stop New Jersey’s mail-in ballot program.
U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp’s opinion was foreshadowed when he rejected the GOP’s request for an injunction to stop the program on Oct. 6 and wrote the plaintiffs “fail to establish they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims.”
In a court filing last month, the campaign alleged the state’s ballot procedures violated the Constitution and opened the door to widespread voter fraud, including that ballots mailed after Election Day would still be counted. Shipp wrote Thursday that the fraud claims rest on “highly speculative fear.”
Murphy signed legislation in August that allowed election officials to begin counting mail-in ballots 10 days before Election Day and accept unpostmarked ballots up to two days afterward. All registered New Jersey voters were mailed ballots in what Murphy has said are concerns over potential coronavirus transmission from in-person voting.
The GOP sued New Jersey in August, calling the state’s plan “a brazen power grab” by Murphy that created the possibility of widespread voter fraud. The suit named a recent incident in Paterson in which a campaign worker allegedly admitting stealing ballots out of mail boxes in a local election.
“It is difficult - and ultimately speculative - to predict future injury from evidence of past injury,” Shipp wrote.
Samantha Zager, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, replied via email: “Governor Murphy, who has disingenuously quipped that New Jersey has ‘a higher probability of being hit by lightning than we do uncovering voter fraud’ better seek shelter - has himself and his liberal legislature to blame for the chaos and confusion we’ve already seen ahead of November 3.’
The two major political parties are embroiled in dozens of lawsuits across the country over issues including mail-in ballots, ballot drop boxes, witness requirements and time extensions for voting and for counting ballots.