New Jersey to mail ballots to everyone in November election

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New Jersey will mail a ballot to every voter in the state for November’s elections, as well as hold in-person voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s Democratic governor said on Friday.

Governor Phil Murphy’s announcement came as Republican President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on voting by mail, which is expected to increase dramatically this fall because of the coronavirus. Trump and his wife, nonetheless, requested absentee ballots for next Tuesday’s primary election in their adopted home state of Florida.

Trump has said the voting method is susceptible to large-scale fraud, though experts say voter fraud of any kind is extremely rare in the United States.

New Jersey will use methods similar to what it employed for its primary vote in July, Murphy told CNN in an interview, with improvements based on lessons learned then.

“We’re going to have more presence of secure drop boxes, make sure there is that physical in-voting capacity,” he said, referring to in-person voting.

Residents who opt to go to their local polling places on Nov. 3 will do so in “provisional voting,” meaning they must use paper ballots, not voting machines, so that officials can guard against duplicate voting, Murphy said.

The process is “a little bit more cumbersome but it works,” he said.

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Asked about potential voter fraud by using such a hybrid model, Murphy said, “I’m pretty sure that we have a higher probability of being hit by lightning than we do uncovering voter fraud.”

He said the July vote was a resounding success, convincing officials that was the way to go. New Jersey will join eight other states, including California and Nevada, that will offer universal mail-in balloting.

Election officials in most states have encouraged at-home voting as the highly contagious nature of the novel coronavirus has made voting in person a concern.

Trump’s re-election campaign and the national Republican Party this month sued Nevada to block a law that will send a mail-in ballot to every voter before November’s election, saying it will result in “inevitable” voter fraud.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, is a Trump critic. Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is a staunch ally of the president, who has praised Florida’s election system as secure.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Joseph Ax and Peter Szekely; Editing by Dan Grebler