Burlington County Elections officials are urging voters to pay close attention to the instructions included in their Vote-by-Mail package and to avoid some common mistakes when completing and returning their ballots.
“Completed ballots are arriving via the mail, secure drop boxes and in-person submissions to our office. It shows the system is working and voters are taking advantage of the multiple options to return their ballots,” said Joseph Dugan, chair of the Burlington County Board of Elections. “While it’s encouraging that voters are returning their ballots quickly, we’re trying to remind them to also read all the directions with their ballot carefully.”
Election officials report the most common reason a ballot is rejected is because it did not arrive on time, so voters should seek to submit them as soon as possible.
Voters can mail their ballots back with the prepaid postage return envelope provided. Ballots returned via the mail must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and be received by the county Board of Elections no later than 7 days after the election date. However, voters do not have to rely on the mail. They can also submit their ballots in one of the 13 secure drop boxes located around the county or hand-deliver them to the Board of Elections Office at 50 Rancocas Road in Mount Holly or to their assigned polling location on Election Day.
A list of the secure drop box locations is available at https://nj.gov/state/elections/vote-secure-drop-boxes.shtml.
Voters can also vote in-person at the polls with paper provisional ballots. Machine voting at the polls will be reserved solely for disabled voters who are unable to sign a paper ballot.
Other common mistakes officials said voters should avoid are:
- Marking their ballot selections with “X” marks, checks or circles rather than completely filling in the oval to the right of their selections. The oval must be completely filled in with either a pencil or blue or black ink in order to be properly read by ballot scanner machines. Write-in votes should also have an oval filled next to the written submission in the “Personal Choice” column.
- Removing the perforated flap on the certificate envelope or failing to sign the envelope. All ballots must be returned inside a certificate envelope with the flap intact. If you accidentally remove the flap, you can tape it back on or contact the Clerk’s Office for a replacement ballot. The certificate envelope must also be signed and sealed in order for the returned ballot to be counted.
- Forgetting to place the sealed ballot certificate envelope in the larger return envelope. All ballots should be submitted with the prepaid postage return envelope, regardless of whether the ballot is being mailed or returned via a drop box or hand-delivery.
- Placing a certificate envelope in a return envelope backward so the return address fails to show through the window. Voters should take care to avoid this mistake if possible. However, it will not disqualify a ballot.
Voters who believe they made a mistake completing their ballot or who lose or damage their ballot or envelopes, should contact the Clerk’s Office as soon as possible to arrange for a replacement envelope. The office can be reached at 609-265-5299 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ballots already submitted with errors cannot be replaced.
Voters who believe their ballot is lost or if they have not yet received one in the mail should also contact the Clerk’s Office.
“This may be a different kind of election than what most voters are used to, but their right to vote remains paramount. It may seem like a complicated process, but if they follow the instructions provided than they’ll see they can still safely and securely submit their ballots,” Dugan said.