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Thousands of completed ballots are arriving at the Burlington County Board of Elections Office daily and election officials have started to review and process them so that valid ballots can be counted.
Among the checks performed by Board of Elections staff is whether a vote-by-mail ballot has already been submitted and if the voter’s signature on the ballot’s certification envelope matches the signature on registration records.
“The ballot signature verification process is one of the most important actions the Election Board takes to make sure the election remains secure,” said Joe Dugan, the Election Board’s chair. “We have clear procedures in place to ensure that each voter submits only one ballot and also that no one is able to use another voter’s ballot to hijack or steal their vote.”
The verification process begins when inbound ballots arrive via the mail, drop box collections or hand delivery.
Information from a ballot is first submitted into a voter verification system to ensure that only one ballot per voter is received and counted. If any duplicate ballot is submitted, it will immediately be flagged for careful review.
After the information is submitted into the verification system, the signature on the ballot envelope is compared to the voter’s signature on their voter registration record. If the Election Board staff determine the signature matches, the ballot envelope is considered valid and ready to be counted.
If the Board receives a ballot envelope without the required certification signature, the ballot is separated from the others and a “Cure letter” is sent to the voter offering them the opportunity to respond back with a completed cure form.
Envelopes with signatures that appear not to match the signature on the voter’s registration record are separated and given to the Board of Elections Commissioners to review. If the board rejects the signature, a Cure Letter is sent to the voter so they have the opportunity to respond.
If voters do not respond to the Cure Letters, their ballots are rejected. Returned cure forms containing the appropriate identifying information are considered valid signatures and the associated ballots are then accepted.
“The safeguards are in place to ensure that the election is secure and voters don’t lose their right to participate because their signature has changed,” Dugan said.
The ballot processing and review take time and Dugan stressed that ballots received by the Election Board may not immediately get processed and appear on the New Jersey Division of Elections online ballot tracking system.