New Jersey's last-minute offer of e-mail voting to displaced residents was greeted by concern by security experts, who warn that e-mail offers a fast track to voter fraud.
But the system may have another problem as well: County election administrators are, according to anecdotal reports, simply not responding to all requests for ballots. In two major counties, the e-mail address advertised on the website of the county clerk is not even accepting e-mail.
The e-mail address listed on the website of the Morris County Clerk, firstname.lastname@example.org, is not receiving e-mail. Nor is the e-mail address, email@example.com, listed on the website of the Essex County Clerk, nor the County's site. (The Essex County Clerk posted to his Facebook page Monday that voters could e-mail requests to his personal Hotmail account.
Essex County, which includes Newark, is the state's third largest. Morris County, with nearly 500,000 residents in largely prosperous suburbs of New York City, is the 10th largest.
Jason Tanz, a Wired magazine editor who lives in Essex County, told BuzzFeed he filled out a ballot application, sent it to the clerk — and received no response. He called twice and e-mailed, he said, — only to find that the e-mail address was bouncing.
"If you're going to do something like this, you have to do it right," Tanz said in an e-mail. "This was obviously a rush job, and I'm sure thousands of people won't be able to vote because they couldn't figure out where to send their applications, and couldn't get anyone to tell them.
"It's really maddening," he said. "I've sent in my application three times now, and I still don't know if I'm going to get a chance to vote tomorrow."
And New Jersey residents in areas where e-mail addresses are technically working may also be having problems. Kiersten Mahon, who evacuated Rumson in Monmouth County for the Washington, DC, area, forwarded BuzzFeed e-mails showing she had submitted her application for an absentee ballot to her county clerk at 1:45 p.m. As of near midnight Monday — hours after the 5:00 p.m. deadline to apply for a ballot, she had received no response.
The Essex County Clerk and a spokeswoman for Governor Chris Christie did not respond to inquiries about the technical shortcomings.
UPDATE: Essex County Clerk C.J. Durkin e-mailed at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, "We are working around the clock to try and ensure that everyone who wants to vote...can. As an alternative email, voters can send requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 973 621 2644."
Ben Smith is the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed and is based in New York.
Contact Ben Smith at email@example.com.
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