The Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders announced the County has received a $2.9 million grant to help cover additional expenses from this year’s switch to a primarily vote-by-mail election system.
The Freeholders voted unanimously Wednesday to accept the grant from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life for the purpose of election planning and operations during the ongoing pandemic. The money is expected to be sufficient to pay for all additional expenses the County faced from the July Primary Election and the upcoming November 3 General Election.
Gov. Phil Murphy ordered both elections be conducted primarily with vote-by-mail ballots rather than in-person voting with machines to protect voters and poll workers from spreading the virus.
Burlington County applied for the CTCL funding after learning about its COVID-19 Response Grant Program. In its application, the County cited numerous additional expenses, including temporary workers, additional computers, document scanners, barcode scanners, printers and other equipment needed to process the historic volume of Vote-by-Mail ballots.
The County is also anticipating over $1.4 million in additional expenses for ballots, envelopes and postage related to the more than 325,000 vote-by-mail ballots the County has issued.
As of Friday, more than 138,000 ballots have already been successfully returned to the County Election Board
“Ensuring voters ability to cast their ballots in a safe and secure manner during this unprecedented pandemic has been a challenge that has forced both election workers and voters to make adjustments. It’s also come at a substantial cost in both time and finances,” said Freeholder Director Felicia Hopson. “Thanks to this grant, we can report that those costs will not be borne by our taxpayers. On behalf of our voters and our entire board, I’d like to thank the Center for Tech and Civic Life for providing us with this much-needed support.”
The Center for Tech and Civic Life is a nonprofit group that seeks to promote the use of technology to improve how local governments and communities interact. The group is expecting to distribute over $300 million to assist local governments with the challenge of running safe elections during the health crisis.
The money was pledged to the organization by Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg for this purpose and can be used by governments to fund staffing, training and equipment purchases or upgrades needed for the elections.
To date, more than 2,100 local election jurisdictions have applied for the CTCL support, the nonprofit announced.
Hopson said the County remains committed to helping all Burlington County voters cast ballots.
“No one anticipated this pandemic, but I’m incredibly proud of how our entire County government has responded to assist our residents and deliver the critical services they require,” Hopson said. “This election has been an extension of that. We’ve taken the steps needed for voters to safely cast their ballots and have their votes securely counted. All that’s left is for voters to act. We’re asking those that haven’t yet completed and returned their ballots to do so as soon as possible.”