Some voting confusion in New Jersey

February 5, 2008 3:49:44 PM PST
New Jersey officials said Tuesday that they were getting more complaints than usual about problems at polling places - including some early-morning confusion at Gov. Jon S. Corzine's polling place.

Michael Harper, clerk to the Hudson County Board of Elections, said that when the first voter arrived at the Hoboken fire station where Corzine votes, an election worker did not press the right buttons to set the machine.

The worker called the Board of Elections, which talked her through the problem, Harper said. He said the worker was confused because different buttons are used for the primary election than in other elections.

Some media reports said that Corzine delayed going to vote because of the problem. But his spokesman, Jim Gardner, said the governor was running late for other reasons and voted around 6:50 a.m - about a half-hour later than scheduled.

Harper said when the governor did vote, he was in and out of the polling place in 2½ minutes and was the 14th person to vote on that machine.

Harper said another voting machine in the same firehouse was accidentally turned off soon after voting began at 6 a.m. and another machine had to be brought in to replace it.

Laurie Brewer, a spokeswoman for the state Public Advocate's office, said the office was getting more calls from voters with complaints on Tuesday than it did during general elections last November.

She said many of the calls are coming from voters who are frustrated that they cannot switch parties for the primaries and from voters registered as independents who are being turned away. Only party members may vote in the primary, though independent voters can join parties at the polling place.

Deborah Jacobs, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said an officer in her group spotted an electioneering problem when he went to vote at a Montclair school: student-made signs for some, but not all, candidates were hanging near the voting booths.

Under New Jersey election laws, no material supporting candidates is allowed within 100 feet of polling places.

Jacobs said people had called her group with a smattering of other complaints, too, such as people not being offered provisional ballots in Jersey City, a woman with a baby stroller being unable to get into a Hoboken polling site, a Democrat in Monmouth County being given a machine set up for Republicans, among others.