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New Jersey allows email voting

Suffrage-as-a-service for voters displaced by Sandy

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Voters displaced by Hurricane Sandy will be able to vote in the US Presidential election by email or fax.

The electronic poll will take place in the US State of New Jersey, thanks to a decision by Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, who feels it is unfair for displaced people, and emergency services workers, to be deprived of their vote.

“This has been an extraordinary storm that has created unthinkable destruction across our state and we know many people have questions about how and where to cast their vote in Tuesday’s election,” Guadagno said. “Despite the widespread damage Hurricane Sandy has caused, New Jersey is committed to working through the enormous obstacles before us to hold an open and transparent election befitting our state and the resiliency of its citizens.”

That commitment means New Jersey will designate any displaced voters as “overseas voters”, a class of voter already permitted to vote by email.

The scheme requires voters to download and complete a Vote By Mail form, then return it to electoral authorities. Once approved, voters will receive a ballot by either fax or email. Voters have until 5:00 PM on November 6th to register for an email or fax vote, leaving them just three hours to vote before the close of polls at 8:00PMt.

Whether New Jersey is ready for a flood of email ballots is debatable. At the time of writing, the download page for Vote By Mail Forms still says “The County Clerk cannot accept faxed or emailed copies of a Application for Vote by Mail Ballot, unless you are a Military or Overseas Voter, since an original signature is required.”

Nor do the announcement of the rule change, or the official Directive (PDF) mention any security provisions for email ballots. While security arrangements for overseas and military voters doubtless exist, no information has been posted about how they might scale to cope with a larger 'e-lectorate'.

Given the likely closeness of the US election, and precedents such as the hanging infamous “chads” controversy from the 2000 poll, it is therefore conceivable that the security arrangements could become very contentious.

New Jersey is, however, a solidly “blue” state that President Obama should win handily. One imagines that litigation would become a factor only if a very large number of electronic votes were received. ®

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