Newark - New Jerseyans from across the state headed to the polls to participate in New Jersey's first Super Tuesday presidential primary, but not all citizens were able to cast ballots; among the many who reportedly experienced failures of New Jersey's voting systems was Governor Corzine himself.
"New Jersey has a host of election system problems that have curtailed democratic rights today, and in other recent elections" said Anne Barron, coordinator of the ACLU-NJ's Election Protection efforts. "In the face of numerous irregularities and problems at the polls, the state and county election offices offered little. Our calls to their hotlines went unanswered."
The ACLU-NJ and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey established a voter protection hotline for voters to speak with trained poll monitors and to request volunteer lawyers that could help challenge an election judge's denial of voting rights at the poll. Citizens reported numerous irregularities through this hotline, including:
- Voters not offered provisional ballots;
- Difficulty physically accessing voting site;
- Machines not operable;
- Emergency ballots not provided;
- Numerous people registered as Democrats but listed in the statewide database as Republicans and prohibited from voting as Democrats;
- County elections offices and the State AG being unreachable by phone; and
- Unhelpful and untrained poll workers.
The problem of inoperable machines apparently affected Governor Corzine who reportedly could not vote at his polling place, the Hoboken Fire Department Engine Company No. 2. Two voting machines didn't work for about 45 minutes, while he and other voters were turned away. By law, these voters should have been offered the opportunity to cast an emergency ballot, but they were not. The Governor was forced to go to another polling place.
When both advocates and members of the press called the Hudson County Superintendent of Elections to ask about Gov. Corzine's experience, staff members hung up on them.
"In light of these issues, it's even more appalling that the State has restricted groups like the ACLU, the League of Women Voters and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund from providing non-partisan information and finding out if the voters had any difficulties at the polls" said Deborah Jacobs, ACLU-NJ Executive Director.
The ACLU-NJ is in court challenging Attorney General Anne Milgram's directive preventing advocates from distributing voters' rights cards within the 100-feet of the polling site.
"While we understand the need to restrict electioneering at the polls, our Voter Protection cards are well-intentioned and simply provide basic information, such as reminding citizens that they can immediately appeal to a judge if an election official does not allow them to vote," said Jacobs.
Advocates for voting rights and democracy have urged the State to address its elections failures since the passage of the Help America Vote Act. Concerns have consistently fallen on deaf ears, or been resolved in a manner that does not promote voting rights and democracy.
"Now that Governor Corzine himself has experienced the failures of New Jersey's election system, perhaps the state will take our concerns more seriously," said Jacobs. "After all, fair voting systems are like a seatbelt of democracy-they secure it."