November 27, 2019

Spare No Expense To Safeguard Our Democracy

To the Editor:

It was recently discovered by the Mercer County Board of Elections that more than 300 vote-by-mail ballots from Princeton had not been counted in the recent election. There were more than 250 vote-by-mail ballots from Trenton that had not been counted; as well as smaller numbers (32 or fewer) from East Windsor, Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell Township, Lawrence Township, Pennington, and Robbinsville.

According to a Board of Elections Commissioner Anthony Francioso, who presided at the meeting, the uncounted ballots were locked and secured in the Board of Elections vault with the ballots that had been counted and the ballots that had been rejected.

On Monday, November 25, I and others attended a public meeting at the Board of Elections to witness the counting and scanning of the uncounted ballots, including the 362 from Princeton.

The results, available on the website of the Mercer County Clerk, did not change the outcome of the election.

My understanding is that an alert Mercer County employee noticed the discrepancy in the total number of vote-by-mail ballots received and the official results that were posted. The Board of Elections began an investigation and located the uncounted ballots in the vault. The vault has two keys, one held by a Democrat and one held by a Republican. Both parties have to be present in order to open the vault.

I was told that the vault was built before voting by mail became a common practice, and thus it is small for the number of ballots that are stored there.

Even though there was no fraud involved, this incident shows that we must be even more vigilant in making sure our elections are secure especially since we have a crucial presidential election next year and election-tampering by Russia has been documented by our national intelligence agencies.

Before then, Mercer County should make sure that systems are in place to track all ballots cast; that facilities, such as the vault, are adequate (there are always many more voters in a presidential election year); and that we have new voting machines that allow for a voter-marked paper ballot so we can verify the election results if necessary.

Governor Murphy mtust make funding (currently frozen) available for the extra expense incurred by New Jersey counties to provide the large number of vote-by-mail ballots required by a recent state voting law — otherwise, the law will be declared unconstitutional.

The right to vote is the heart and soul of our democracy, and we in New Jersey and the nation should spare no expense in safeguarding it.

Scotia W. MacRae
Chair, Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee
Evelyn Place, Princeton