175,000 apply to vote by mail

About 175,000 people have applied to vote through the state’s well publicized new vote-by-mail program.

Somerset County Clerk Bret Radi, who as county clerk section chief is responsible for coordinating the statewide information on the program, called it a success.

“Our collective efforts have made this transition smooth and successful for voters," he said.

Of the 175,000, just over 100,000 have cast their ballots About 5,200 applications have been rejected for various reaons, including lack of signatures, signatures that do not match those on file and even in some cases bein sent by a person who is not registered to vote.

The totals are well below the number of absentee ballots submitted in 2008, when 245,909 New Jersey residents voted by mail. But that was a presidential year, where many more residents typically vote than in gubernatorial elections.

“I honestly don’t know the expectations that the parties set for themselves. As far as my expectations for my particular county, I personally didn’t expect to do as many as we did in last year’s presidential election,” said Radi.

The new program allows registered voters to cast their ballots without citing a reason. In the last gubernatorial election, absentee ballots were still restricted to those who, for one reason or another, could not make it to the polls on election day. And while those conditions were dropped last year, the new law loosens regulations for designating someone a messenger.

Radi did not do a statewide comparison to 2005, but the number of vote-by-mail ballots has doubled since then in his own county. In 2005, he said, 3,800 Somerset County voters cast their ballots by mail. As of October 27 of this year, 7,223 had applied to.

Two counties have actually seen more vote-by-mail ballots submitted than last year. In Hudson County, where Democrats have been promoting the program heavily, 10,610 people have applied to vote – up from 8,922 at this point last year. And in Cumberland County, 4,314 people have applied – up from 3,946 last year.

Camden County, which like Hudson is an important get out the vote county for Democrats, is trailing its 2008 totals by a small margin — 12,223 have have applied for mail ballots there so far this year, compared to 13,485 at this point last year.

The deadline to apply for vote-by-mail ballots was on Tuesday, but residents can still vote at their county clerk’s office until Monday at 3pm.

Update: After being provided with updated information by the Secretary of State's Office, this version of the story corrects an earlier version, which relied ona press release that said 175,000 New Jersey "are voting at home under the new mail in ballot law." 175,000 apply to vote by mail