New Jersey email voting a mess

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New Jersey state officials came to rue the state's last minute decision to permit Hurricane Sandy-displaced voters to submit ballots in the Nov. 6 election by email or fax.

"If a displaced voter can vote by other means, they are urged to do so," Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) said in a directive (.pdf) released on election day.

County clerks, she explained, "are receiving  applications at a rate that outpaces their capacity to process them."

Guadagno, in her capacity as the chief election official, extended the deadline for clerks to process those application for casting a ballot remotely until Nov. 9, meaning that an undetermined number of New Jerseyans who sent in an application to email, fax (or mail) their ballot by the Nov. 6, 5 p.m. deadline but didn't receive a response won't be able to vote until days after election day.

"The state didn't give us enough time to prepare," Morris County Clerk Joan Bramhall told NJ.com. The problems are unlikely to affect the state's electoral college vote in the presidential race since voters there overwhelmingly voted for President Obama, but the outcome of some local contests could remain unknown for weeks.

At one point, Essex County Clerk Christopher Durkin took to Facebook to post his personal Hotmail email address in an attempt to permit voters to send in applications to a working account--a move that drew concerns about application integrity. As security researcher Ashkan Soltani noted, the security settings on Durkin's account uses his mother's maiden name as a password recovery question, leading the door open to third parties to take control of the account.

Complicating the vote count is the fact that emailed or faxed ballots may not be considered valid until county election officials determine that the same person didn't also vote in person, NJ.com notes.

Voters took to Twitter to express frustration. "Oh no! email box for Essex County Clerk's box is full. No one can email in their ballots," said one would-be voter.

"Trying to send application for vote for mail ballot for 2 days. Faxing - LINE BUSY. EMAIL @co.monmouth.nj.us is FULL" said another.

The New Jersey American Civil Liberties Union reportedly sought a court order that would have permitted displaced residents to fill out a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot of the type used by overseas citizens who don't receive their ballot in time, but NBC reports that an Essex County judge rejected the petition on election night.

For more:
- go to the New Jersey division of election website

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