Provisional Ballot Letter

Princeton, NJ 08540

February 8, 2015

Ms. Paula Sollami-Covello, Esq.

Mercer County Clerk

640 South Broad Street

P.O. Box 8068

Trenton, NJ 08650-0068

Dear Ms. Sollami-Covello:

As you know, the mission of the League of Women Voters is to protect voting rights. It has come to our attention that, in the November election, boardworkers in some districts in Princeton did not offer provisional ballots as required. The problem was observed by members of the League who served as challengers.

In Princeton District 8, a voter who had “Vote by Mail” in the registration book was told by the boardworker that he had to go to Trenton to cast his ballot. When the challenger interrupted to say that he could vote provisionally, the boardworker was openly displeased, though she complied. Later in the two hours covered by the same challenger, the boardworker reportedly glared at the challenger when telling a voter who had changed address that he could vote provisionally.

In District 11, a challenger reported that a voter was adamant that she be given a provisional ballot. The boardworker refused and directed the voter to Princeton Town Hall. It took the intervention of the challenger to insist on a phone call. The boardworker learned that she had to allow a provisional ballot.

I am a boardworker in District 13, and I have sensed a similar reluctance to use provisional ballots among my fellow workers. I have become the one designated to help provisional voters; the orange bag has become my reponsibility. I think I understand the root of the reluctance. We have been trained—especially in the past—not to touch that orange bag unless absolutely necessary. Fear and awe have been drilled into us. So, although I agree that it was necessary during the past training session to practice sealing it (a fear-inducing exercise), I think it is important that we be encouraged not to fear opening it. If we are serve voters professionally, we must get beyond the mystique surrounding the orange bag. Perhaps, too, our training should stop emphasizing that boardworkers, not challengers, are in charge and emphasize instead that boardworkers be as well-informed as challengers.

The League anticipates that you and the Board of Elections will address this issue so that boardworkers are prepared for the very important primary and general elections of 2016. Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Chrystal Schivell, Voter Service chair, League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area

cc: Joanne Palmucci Anthony R. Francioso, Esq. Peter D. Nichols Anthony J. Conti

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