Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More On the Mail-In Ballot

As readers know, this reporter decided to give the “No Excuse” mail-in vote a try this year. A new law permits absentee voting without having to give a reason such as illness or absence on Election Day.

The packet an absentee voter receives includes the ballot itself, an inner envelope with a detachable verification of the voter’s identity and a larger envelope to be mailed to County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi with the secret ballot inside.

The voter marks each choice by filling in an oval with blue or black ink or pencil. Write-in votes may also be cast.

This writer absentmindedly filled in one extra oval and feared the ballot was spoiled. The remedy for a messed-up ballot is a trip to Elizabeth with the bad ballot to get a replacement.

But a call to the County Clerk’s Elections Division revealed that one extra filled-in oval on the Absentee Ballot will not invalidate it.

The optical scanner used to read ballots records filled-in ovals next to the big black arrows on the form, so a random spot will not mar the ballot.

So after obeying the final rule to “affix proper postage,“ I mailed it at the main post office on Watchung Avenue. The deadline to mail in the ballots is Nov. 1.

Voters can write in names for any category of candidate - governor, freeholder, county clerk, mayor, Assembly representative or City Council member- but one candidate is relying solely on write-in votes.

Mayor Albert T. McWilliams lost the June Democratic primary to Sharon Robinson-Briggs and was later denied a ballot spot as a Republican. Only Robinson-Briggs and independent candidate Bob Ferraro are on the ballot for mayor.

The incumbent mayor’s fate hinges on getting enough voters to write in his name properly, so a blunder on a campaign flier recently distributed to voters took on more importance than an ordinary typo.

The flier describes the write-in process and then asks voters to print “Al McWilliamns” in the mayoral line.

A campaign worker said Monday the error was due to lack of proofreading and would be corrected. McWilliams said at a kick-off rally for the write-in campaign that voters should print “Albert McWilliams” on the line.

All three mayoral candidates have been invited to speak at a League of Women Voters forum on Nov. 1 to be held at the Plainfield Public Library, Park Avenue and West 8th Street.

--Bernice Paglia