Thousands of New Jersey voters who serve in the military or live overseas may not get their ballots for the June 7 primary because the U.S. Postal Service has temporarily suspended mail delivery to more than half the counties in the world due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The state Division of Elections was aware of the issue, but never addressed it with local election officials in advance of mailing military and overseas ballots last week. Eight election officials told the New Jersey Globe that they were unaware of international mail service disruptions.
The post office maintains a list of 21 countries that have suspended mail deliveries due to COVID-19 restrictions, and 81 that the U.S. cannot send deliveries to as a result of transportation constraints. The U.S. Postal Service uses private airline carries to ship mail overseas.
India, Pakistan, the Philippines and the Dominican Republican are among the 102 nations that are not receiving mail from the United States.
It is unclear how many military or overseas ballots, if any, were undeliverable for the May 12 elections, where 33 municipalities across ten counties voted for local offices or referendums.
Some counties maintain a database of email addresses and send ballots electronically to local residents serving in the military. New Jersey law allows military voters to return their ballots via email, and those individuals are aware that their votes may not be completely confidential.
If a county doesn’t have an email address or phone number, it may be impossible for election officials to reach the voter.
Some local officials are hoping that voters who don’t receive a ballot contact them,
The Federal Voting Assistance Program allows a backup plan for voters who don’t receive their ballots: they can download a standardized federal write-in ballot, if they have access to a printer. But since 102 countries are not delivering mail to the United States, the voter will then need to figure out a way to scan or fax their ballots to return them.
An overseas voter, including those serving in the military, must know the names of candidates for every office – in some cases, those running for county committee – in order to cast their votes.
Right now, there are no certified federal write-in ballots available online for New Jersey.
The Division of Elections has a help line for voters who don’t receive their ballots – 1-877-NJVOTER – which transfers the call to the county clerk where the voter lives.
The U.S. Vote Foundation can also help voters connect with local election officials.
According to the U.S. Postal Service, the State Department notified them in April that certain diplomatic mail is temporarily unavailable through June 18.