Opinion: Systems needed to avoid voting impediments


I write to Mr. Thomas Lynch, administrator of the County of Middlesex Board of Elections, with great concern following the events that transpired in Spotswood and throughout Middlesex County on Election Day, Nov. 2, 2021.

I’m proud of the residents of Spotswood coming to express their voice and perform their civic duty to vote in such a resounding way this election cycle. The voter turnout makes it even more imperative that as elected officials and public servants, we must safeguard the sacred constitutional right to vote, a privilege that sets us apart from nations across the globe.

Unfortunately, on Nov. 2, our government failed to ensure this fundamental right. Among the challenges that were faced by the residents of Spotswood, primarily at the Knights of Columbus polling location, were:

• Early morning connectivity problems caused significant wait times and errors in the poll books where registered voters in the borough could not be found

• Paper jams with the new machines caused significant interruptions to operations

• Consolidation of five districts into one polling location yet only being provided two working kiosks and three voting machines; upon request of another kiosk a duration of nearly two hours passed before it was received. A secondary request was made for a fourth voting machine and was received less than an hour before the close of polls at 8 p.m.

The effects of these issues echoed throughout the day, and it was a rarity that the waiting time to vote fell below an hour. Employees from the borough were asked to help address several crowd concerns, including the Clerk’s Office, Administration, Police Department, Department of Public Works, and Office of Emergency Management.

While I understand some of these challenges were not unique to Spotswood and may have caused strains on the Board of Elections to respond, I think the most depressing and devastating blow to our democracy was witnessing voters leave the polling location without voting. Due to these long wait times, voters could no longer afford any more time on the line due to work, family or other commitments.

We will never know the countless voters that never voted because they could not park in the overwhelmed parking lot that spilled over into a rain-soaked muddy field.

The resiliency and determination of the voters that remained is commendable.

We must do better, and I offer myself and our team in the borough in any way we can to work with the Board of Elections to ensure we put in place systems and processes to avoid these impediments to voting in the future.

Mayor Jackie Palmer


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