Ocean County Commissioners: Elections Ballot Drop Boxes Have to Go

The Ocean County Board of Commissioners is calling on the state Legislature and Gov. Murphy to eliminate the use of ballot drop boxes for all upcoming elections.

The boxes which were mandated by Governor Phil Murphy through the issuance of Executive Orders 144 and 177 and subsequently passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor into a state law in response to the coronavirus pandemic have been the topic of concerns including potential election fraud to possible security breaches.

“These ballot drop boxes mandated by the Governor in May of 2020 have created concerns amongst voters who are raising legitimate issues over election security,” said Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners John P. Kelly. “In response to the concerns raised by our residents, we are asking the state to eliminate the use of these ballot drop boxes.”

The Ocean County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution May 18 calling for the repeal of the state’s Executive Order that mandated the ballot drop boxes.

In Ocean County, questions have been raised about drop box security, in particular after security cameras focused on the box at the Brick Township Municipal Building failed.

“We want our residents to be confident that their vote counts and that the election results on all levels in Ocean County are accurate,” Kelly said. “This is paramount for voters here.”

The resolution notes that the lack of clear and concise guidance in the Executive Order and Ballot Drop Box law has created confusion and contradictions within other record retention rules and regulations including retention schedules relating to the Open Public Records Act.

There are 19 drop boxes in 17 locations in Ocean County most of which are outside at branches of the Ocean County Library.

The Commissioners also noted in the resolution that the State mandated use of ballot drop boxes have created unnecessary costs in the election process and requires counties to expend unnecessary funds and resources to comply with, among other cumbersome regulations, the daily retrieval of ballots, frequency of ballot retrieval, staffing requirements, surveillance and security costs, data storage and public access to live security feeds.

“The guidance received by the Ocean County Board of Elections, which oversees the ballot drop boxes, from the state of New Jersey was never clear or concise,” said Ocean County Commissioner Virginia E. Haines, who serves as liaison to the Board of Elections. “It’s difficult to respond properly to our constituents when the rules have been confusing from the start.”

The resolution calls upon the Governor and state Legislature to immediately adopt legislation repealing P.L. 2020 c. 72 “and bring integrity back to the election process.”

“When this went into effect in 2020 many voters voiced their concerns to the Board of Commissioners since the state just short of shut down in-person voting the first year of the pandemic,” Kelly said. “With many pandemic generated mandates lifted, and all the questions this continues to pose, it’s time for this mandate to go too.”

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