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on June 11, 2015 at 3:30 PM, updated June 11, 2015 at 3:36 PM
It’s been more than a week since New Jersey’s June 2, 2015 primary election, where voters nominated candidates for local and county offices, but some Gloucester County voters are just receiving their sample ballots now.
Sample ballots are mailed to every registered voter in the county for each election. They include not only the names of candidates, but the full text of any referendum questions and local polling locations as well.
They are supposed to make it to voters’ homes no later than a week before an upcoming election, according to election officials, but in this case some have yet to make it to those individuals.
“It’s probably the worst situation we’ve ever had,” said Gloucester County Clerk Jim Hogan.
Not only is there a federal regulation requiring the ballots be delivered, but the cost of printing and mailing the ballots costs can be between $18,000 to $30,000 per election.
Stephanie Salvatore, the county’s supervisor of elections, has the documentation proving the 180,000 ballots were all printed, addressed and prepped at the county’s mail-house and then sent to the U.S. Post Office’s Bellmawr location for distribution. This is where things went wrong, Salvatore believes.
She has launched her own investigation into the matter, but complaints from voters are still coming.
At least some voters in all 24 Gloucester County municipalities received their sample ballots on time, but some did not, Salvatore said. Addresses in larger municipalities such as West Deptford and Mantua were especially affected, but so were other towns throughout the county.
“Swedesboro is small and some got them and some didn’t,” Salvatore said. “It seems to be pallets are missing.”
Officials at the U.S. Post Office are also investigating the issue, according to Ray Daiutolo, a spokesman for the USPS.
“The Postal Service has a proud tradition of participating in the democratic process by processing and delivering campaign materials and election mail, including domestic and overseas absentee ballots,” he said in an email Thursday. “We appreciate the importance and sensitivity of political and election mail and strive to deliver every piece on time and within the standard established for the mail service used.”
While sample ballots are sent in bulk, they are to be treated as First Class mail, according to Hogan.
“Somebody dropped the ball big time,” he added.
While most primary elections were uncontested in the county this month, the Clerk and Supervisor of Elections agree that voters not receiving their sample ballots can lead to major problems in the election from low voter turnout to voters not being informed on the issues in a given election.
“Getting those sample ballots out ahead of time gives people a chance to be an educated voter,” Salvatore said.
As the investigation continues, she added that in the next election the county will be spending a little more money to track all of the sample ballots as they are delivered.
“It’s going to cost more money, unfortunately, but for now it’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Rebecca Forand may be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @RebeccaForand. Find the South Jersey Times on Facebook.
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