How the votes are counted in NJ elections

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) - November 2, 2008 That's when county election boards are allowed to start opening and tallying absentee ballots - the first step in a vote-counting process that may not be complete for days.

A record 5.4 million voters are registered in New Jersey. The state Attorney General's Office says it will dispatch 540 lawyers to polling places and county election offices across the state to try to help the election run smoothly.

Here's a rundown of how the vote is to be counted for Tuesday's election:

-Workers can start hand-counting the absentee ballots once the polls open at 6 a.m. But the results are not to be reported until after the polls are closed at 8 p.m.

-After voting ends at 8 p.m., poll workers take tapes with results from the back of each machine.

-Different counties handle the next step in slightly different ways. In all of them, machines read the result tapes. In some, the machines that read the results are taken to the polling places. In others, the results are taken to counting machines, in county election offices or elsewhere.

-County election boards then give the data to county clerks, who report the results, including tabulations of paper absentee ballots and emergency ballots, which are used in case of voting machine problems.

-The part of the count that's potentially most time-consuming is provisional ballots, which are used by voters who are not listed in the official registration books. Before those votes are counted, officials must confirm that the voters are properly registered.

-Counties have until Nov. 10 to report to the state Division of Elections - though they can get extensions, if they need more time to count provisional ballots.

-The state requires that all properly cast paper ballots - emergency, absentee and provisional - be counted.

-The Board of State Canvassers meets Dec. 2 to certify state results.

-The state's presidential election officially wraps up on Dec. 15 with a meeting of the Electoral College. Although it is candidates who appear on the ballot, the public actually is choosing 15 electors - and directing them on how to vote. There are a total of 538 voters in the electoral college; it takes 270 of their votes to win the presidency.


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