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Voters in New Jersey Seeing Mail-In Ballots Returned

Slipping your ballot in an envelope, throwing it in the mail and watching the U.S. Postal Service cart it off is a pretty American thing to do. Until that same ballot returns to you like an Un-American boomerang.

That's what's happening to voters in Monmouth County, N.J., a jumble of towns along the Jersey Shore where — for the second year in a row — a design flaw on ballot envelopes mean the local post office can't process them. Postal machines are supposed to scan bar codes on the envelope, but they were left off. When the machines can't find such a bar code, they look for a printed address, but occasionally the machines read the voter's address instead of the Board of Elections (and so they dutifully send the ballot back to the voter). According to the Asbury Park Press, it's not presently clear how many ballots have been affected.

Now that the problem has been identified, the postal service is setting the envelopes aside to be given to the election board rather than mailing them back to their original senders. Post official officials told the Asbury Park Press that voters who had already received their ballot back could mail them again without additional postage.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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