Insider NJ

Institute and Partners Ask Board of Elections of Several NJ Counties To Move Mail-In Ballot Drop Boxes From Police Stations

Connecting Law Enforcement and Voting a Bad Idea, Letter Says

Insider NJ — June 19, 2020

NEWARK — The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and 19 partners wrote to the Board of Elections for Bergen, Morris, Mercer and Burlington counties today strongly objecting to the placing of mail-in ballot drop box locations at police stations.

The groups wrote: "Connecting voting and law enforcement is a bad idea at any time. But particularly in light of the current climate and the growing awareness of matters of racism around policing, locating the drop boxes at these locations could create a significant deterrent to voting, especially for Black communities. It is imperative that all New Jersey voters, regardless of their race, feel comfortable exercising their right to vote."

The Division of Elections recently provided guidance asking that counties not put ballot drop boxes in front of police stations if other options are available.

A full copy of the body of the letter, including signatories, is below.

A list of objectionable drop box locations can be found here <https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1U5ezVqMvjYtBMhob16f6uAlQJeeO9aqPibFq9m-hHss/edit#gid=0>, as well as on individual county Board of Election websites. Note that counties are still updating drop box location lists.

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Letter:

June 19, 2020

Dear ___ County Board of Elections:

We write to express our deep concern about the choice of police stations for vote-by-mail drop boxes in your county, specifically the [location(s) with police station]. Connecting voting and law enforcement is a bad idea at any time. But particularly in light of the current climate and the growing awareness of matters of racism around policing, locating the drop boxes at these locations could create a significant deterrent to voting, especially for Black communities. It is imperative that all New Jersey voters, regardless of their race, feel comfortable exercising their right to vote. We strongly urge you to change the locations of these drop boxes.

We understand the difficult situation you are in as election officials this year. COVID-19 has been devastating for our state, and the vast responsibility of ensuring that our democracy thrives is on your shoulders. We also understand that Executive Order 144, issued by Governor Murphy on May 15, 2020, provided a framework but left ultimate decisions about locations up to you. As you are aware, the Division of Elections has recently provided guidance asking that counties not put ballot drop boxes in front of police stations, if other options are available, in light of the current climate. We urge you to follow this guidance and place ballot drop box locations in more appropriate areas. Fire stations and other municipal buildings would be ideal locations.

Police stations are unsuitable for the needs of residents of your county. As a federal judge in the District of New Jersey stated regarding voter intimidation: "Some voters — especially in minority districts where the legacy of racism and history of clashes between the population and authorities has given rise to a suspicion of police and other officials — may choose to refrain from voting."[i] Courts have recognized that stationing police officers outside polling places is a "familiar form of voter intimidation."[ii] This is doing the opposite to a potentially similar effect. While a ballot drop box is not a polling place, it is essential that drop boxes are located in places where all voters will feel comfortable with casting their ballots and that all voting locations are equally accessible for all voters.

We ask that you change these locations as soon as possible to reduce voting deterrence and concern. We welcome the opportunity to discuss this further and to provide any assistance in finding alternative locations.

Respectfully,

American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey

American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch

Blue Wave NJ

Clean Water Action

CoLab

Faith in New Jersey

League of Women Voters of New Jersey

NAACP New Jersey State Conference

NeighborCorps

NJ 11th for Change

NJ Working Families

New Brunswick Area NAACP

New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center

New Jersey Citizen Action

New Jersey Institute for Social Justice

New Jersey League of Conservation Voters

New Jersey Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC-NJ)

Salvation and Social Justice

South Jersey Women for Progressive Change

Women Who Never Give Up, Inc.


Cc:

The Honorable Tahesha Way, New Jersey Secretary of State

Justin Dews, Senior Counsel at Office of Governor Phil Murphy

[i] Democratic Nat. Comm. v. Republican Nat. Comm., 671 F. Supp. 2d 575, 612 (D.N.J. 2009), aff'd, 673 F.3d 192 (3d Cir. 2012).

[ii] Shelby Cty. v. Holder, 811 F. Supp. 2d 424, 486-87 (D.D.C. 2011), rev'd on other grounds, 570 U.S. 529 (2013).

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