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Q & A with Essex County Clerk, Chris Durkin

Donna Ward  | Published on 10/17/2020

Q & A with Essex County Clerk, Chris Durkin

Voter Registration:

● For paper forms, what is the turnaround time for when a voter reg form is received and when registered. And then when is the timing for a VBM ballot to go out? Oct 13th cut off seems too late to receive paper registrations and be able to mail out ballots in time for Nov 3. Turnaround time is one to two days, the main determination is mail processing lead time, so best to use new online voter registration database which will result in fastest registration
● How up to date is the voter reg database? If a voter believes they have registered but can’t find their name, what is the best number to call? Call Commissioner of Registration 973 621 -5061

Signature Curing:

● What’s the best way to update your signature for mail in ballots or to see how you signed it originally (the comparator signature) to minimize mismatched signatures? You can use the voter registration form and check off signature updates or call the Commissioner of registration.
● How does the signature curing process work? How is a voter contacted and how is it “cured?” Will voters have to return a re-signed ballot through the mail, the drop box? etc. A Voter receives a letter to cure their ballot by signing. This can be returned via email, fax or returning to the Board of Elections office.
● Will voters only be notified for signature issues, not other issues like missing deadlines. No, just signatures.

Vote Counting Process:

● Who decides on whether the signature matches or not? What training do they have? Is there oversight from a non- partisan group while this happens? Can you walk through the process of how the ballots are “certified” then counted?
- Board of elections (counts the VBM ballots )
- 4 commissioners approve or disapprove a ballot based off signature
- Bipartisan employees (overseen by clerk at the board of elections and appointed by the 4 commissioners)
- They decide whether the signature matches by eye
- If your signature does not match, you have 17 days after election day to update your signature and your ballot will count.
- If you do not include signature or if signature did not match, you will receive a cure letter. That letter must be sent to the voter within 24 hrs. of the denial of your ballot.
● The voter gets the letter, then what are they to do?
o 3 options: Fill out the cure letter and email it back (scan), fax, or hand it in person. A new signature gets scanned in and the ballot counts.
- Deadline to cure signature is November 21st.
- If ballots are defaced, missed all deadlines, etc. there is nothing you can do about that and the ballot does not count.
- Secure drop boxes will be closed after 8pm on election day.
● What oversight happens at the Post Office to ensure the non- postmarked ballots actually arrive to the County Clerk the next day? When does the counting of the ballots start? Upon receipt? or On Election Day? Or the day after Election Day?
- A ballot has up to 48 hrs. after election day to come in without a post mark and still be counted.
- County officials are in daily contact with postal service
● Will the counting be going on at the courthouse on Election Day after the polls close? Counting will start 10 days before the election starts
● What are the safeguards to protect our ballots in the event of challenges and dirty tricks?
- Every room where ballots are has 24 hr. video surveillance
- In the counting room of ballots, they’re streaming video (overseen by the clerk and board of elections)
- Even though the counting starts 10 days prior, there will be no daily tallies of the count. If there is a report run of the results, it’s a 3rd degree felony for the person running the report.

Voter Tracking:

● If you can’t create a tracking Ballot account, what is the next step? Call County Clerk's Office.
● How is a ballot tracked? Does the voter have to make note of their barcode on the mailing envelope?
- No. The barcode contains voter’s information and is used to keep track of who voted. This information is uploaded into a file w/ the date and time scanned (proof that your ballot was received).
- County clerk’s office produces files daily of returned ballots.

Election Day issues:

● Do you have enough poll workers or election workers? Do you need more?
- 973-621-5072
- Training is going on right now through Zoom if you would like to help. There appear to be enough poll workers for the number of polling places that will be open.
● Will you have enough people manning the voter hotline for people to report issues? Voter Information and Assistance Line at 1-877-NJ-VOTER (1-877-658-6837) directs people back to the county number. Can we help?
- More info will be sent directly to LWV
● Confirm that bearers can only deliver 3 ballots beyond their own to the Newark board of elections office, polling location or drop box.
- As far as the polling site, a voter can only bring their own ballot.
- A person can only be a carrier or bearer to 3 other people’s ballots (includes secure ballot drop box, USPS, bringing ballot back to board of elections).
- Confirmed yes.
- Important that the bearer of that ballot signs the outside of that ballot in the presence of that voter.
- Must have ID if you’re going to the board of elections office.
● What are the safeguards to protect our ballots?
- Sworn government employees are preparing and mailing ballots. Ballots are carried back by sworn federal officers of the postal service.
- Secured ballot drop boxes are monitored by 24-hour video surveillance, on public municipal or county property. Contents are picked up, brought back, and scanned in on a daily basis.

Questions through the chat:

● How often are the ballot boxes going to be emptied?
- On a daily basis
● From September 25th – November 3rd at 8pm, ballots may be dropped off to secure ballot drop boxes.
● Polling locations will be posted on board of elections website, and on Essex County Clerk webpage:
● Can two people share a day working as poll workers?
- Based on need; board of elections makes that decision.
● What age do they have to be?
- 18 years or older
● Pace of new voter registrations this year, compared to previous years or other presidential elections?
- Not as much this year compared to the 2008 Presidential Election year
● Can you drop off your ballot into any drop box, or only in your district/town?
- Any drop box within Essex County
● How is the state and county government going to get out the word as we get closer to election day?
- Through public services, advertisements, social media, state campaigns, etc.
● If the voter registration application is not complete, do you alert the person to give additional information?
- A voter is supposed to receive a letter telling them that they do not have a complete registration, and to do another registration form.
- If someone registered 2 months ago and they aren’t showing up on the “Am I Registered? Search Page”, that person should re-register online.