Expanded voting options in NJ costs millions: Is it worth it?
This year in New Jersey you can vote by mail, you can cast your ballot early or you can do it the old-fashioned way and wait until Election Day to go to your polling location.
The idea is to encourage voting, but there are concerns this new multiple-choice format may wind up causing some confusion.
Early voting locations in each county are different than the normal ones, and because of that some voters have been hesitant to use them. There have also been questions raised about who is signed up for the vote-by-mail system.
Last year because of the pandemic almost everyone used the vote-by-mail system but Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, said this is confusing some Garden State residents.
He said after last year’s election, “you don’t necessarily even know if you’re signed up or not for automatic vote by mail ballots to be sent to you every year.”
He said since this system is now voluntary, if you have not specifically signed up for vote-by-mail you should not be in the system and you probably will not have received a mail ballot.
He noted while the new system gives more options, “I don’t think we can say that it’s going to lead to a greater increase in participation than we would have had anyway.”
Four years ago there were 5.7 million registered voters in New Jersey and 2.2 million cast a ballot, which was 40%. Rasmussen said we’re expecting the same percentage, 40% of now 6.5 million registered voters, to vote this year.
More people are voting by mail, however: 9% did five year ago; as many as 25% might this year, Rasmussen said.
How much having early voting will cost the state remains unclear. Some estimates put the total at $80 million, while others suggest it’s closer to $30 million.
Information about early voting locations is available on the county clerks' websites. Regular polling place locations are printed on the sample ballots mailed to voters.