Meandering w/ Mark Matthews: Bellmawr Sample Ballots: From Bellmawr to Bellmawr takes a week

The Philadelphia Inquirer has a report this morning regarding the untimely delivery of sample ballets for the Bellmawr School Roof Referendum vote.

I can confirm that yesterday when I voted, I had gone from work straight to the voting location, and when I got home I was amused and confused to see my sample ballot had arrived the same day as the vote... in effect AFTER I had voted.

I'll be the guy to say it.... Could this delay have affected the vote outcome?

The ballots which were dropped off at the Bellmawr Post Office (SJ Regional Center), and primarily needed to be delivered to the same town of Bellmawr...  took a week to deliver after going on a tour of New Jersey.

The Inquirer article does a good job of tracking down what happened to the ballots, which included an 80 mile trip to Newark NJ and then to Camden for delivery...  all while the largest Post Office in South Jersey is right in our same town.

My first thought was... "This is why the Post Office is losing money, deliveries in the same town are sent around the state significantly increasing the delivery costs"

But Inquirer writer Jonathan Lai tracked down a regional USPS spokesperson who said because a small number of ballots were addressed to other states, they were put into a mixed tray and sent for sorting in Newark.  If the Bellmawr local ballots were simply separated from others, they would've never left the county.   I can understand that from the Post Office's perspective, they would treat it no different than any other multi-state bulk mailing.

But it does raise a few questions:

  • Shouldn't a printer experienced in printing sample ballots know to sort out the local ballots?
  • Similarly, if the USPS guidelines say it can take up to 9 days to deliver, why were the ballots dropped off 7 days before the election?  (and what is the acceptable time they should delivered before a vote)
  • And lastly (and more importantly)... can someone explain to me why anyone outside of Bellmawr, let alone in another state...  is getting a Sample Ballot for a Bellmawr NJ vote?

So regarding "Could a delay in ballot delivery have affected the vote"?

This was a special vote during an odd time of year.  And it was a School election.

If your children are in the School District, you were probably sent several notices to vote, and even have a vested interested in what happens at the schools and in your busy life you probably give a few extra brain cycles to keep tabs on what's going on in the schools.  The Superintendent blog post online seems as if it was a letter written directly to the students.

But if your kids are not in the school district, as is the case for the majority of residents... how are you aware of the vote?   Wouldnt that sample ballot be a prime means to learn about votes taking place?  Isn't that why the governments send them?

While Bellmawr is seeing new growth with younger families, it is still an aging community with a significant number of adult families whose children have grown up and are no longer in the schools.  How many of those older residents came home from work Tuesday to find out there was an election that same day which would affect their taxes... and had no time to read-up on the vote or even get out to vote.

In the fall the referendum was shot down.  This time around it passed "easily" (as reported by the Courier).   Could the delay of ballots been a factor?

I wonder if the election laws cover the timely delivery of sample ballots?  Have work to do.. I'll try to check later.

 More at
Anger, confusion over delay in delivery of Bellmawr sample ballots