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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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Are CMCo Elections Secure?

This sorter matches the address and signature on the ballot with the address and signature on record. The two signatures are projected on a screen for a side-by-side comparison by staff to ensure they match. 
Charlie Town

This sorter matches the address and signature on the ballot with the address and signature on record. The two signatures are projected on a screen for a side-by-side comparison by staff to ensure they match. 

By Charlie Town

COURT HOUSE – Recent news reports have once again focused attention on the security of our election process across the nation. Courts have rejected all the legal challenges to the 2020 voting outcomes and the Dominion/Fox settlement of more than three-quarters of a billion dollars confirmed the fact that we run accurate and fair elections in the U.S. 

The Cape May County Board of Elections manages the process with a full-time staff in their Mechanic Street office in Court House. Additional personnel store and maintain the voting machines at the County Airport in Erma. 

“Our county board has the best systems and the best people one can find and we run very efficient and accurate elections,” said Michael Kennedy, registrar of the board. 

He is one of two registrars. He is a Democrat. The other registrar is Douglas Dunhour, a Republican.  

In fact, there are two of just about everything in the office. All the operational doors have two locks that require two different keys to open – one in the possession of the Republican and the other with the Democrat.  

Once the door is opened, representatives from both parties go in together. No one at any time is left alone with the data, ballots, or processing machines. 

“We really leave our party affiliations at the door when we come to work and we all get along very well with a cooperative attitude and that makes our work here efficient and smooth,” Kennedy said. 

In colloquial terms: The Ds (Democrats) are there to check up on the Rs (Republicans) and vice versa, but Kennedy and his staff prefer to think in terms of a collective working together to run fair and open elections. 

Citizens can vote either by mail-in ballot or by going to their designated polling station on Election Day. This year on Election Day, at each polling place, new electronic equipment will make sign-in and signature verification easier and faster.  

In New Jersey, electronic signature recognition equipment is not permitted. Every signature must be verified and matched by an individual. Verifying and matching signatures is a consistent procedure throughout the process. 

In the run-up to the elections, mail-in ballot requests take up most of the staff’s time. Each request is processed for verification and registration – one by one by a staff member, and then the ballot itself is mailed to the applicant. 

When the ballot is returned, the same one-by-one verification process is performed, including signature verification. 

During the Covid pandemic, tens of thousands of mail-in ballots had to be processed. 

Cape May County has just shy of 80,000 voters total. In ordinary times, just a few thousand mail-ins would be processed, but recently the mail-in process has become more popular. 

On Election Day, the voting machines tabulate the results for each district, which are then transported to collection centers by police escort to data collection centers in Woodbine, Court House, and the County Airport. 

“There are no ‘back door’ access ports to any of our data processing operations. We currently use Election Systems and Software apps. We were using Dominion and they were good, but we found an even better company,” Kennedy said. 

A cooperative program with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has made it easy for new residents to the county or those who just turned 18 to register to vote when they get their license if they choose to do so.  

The information on the application, including the signature, is transmitted to the Election Board and the voter is set to go. 

“If anyone has any questions about the ‘how to’ of voting or the security and integrity of the system, all they need to do is call or visit us. We are here to make it easy and accurate,” Kennedy said. 

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