Ocean County officials are taking steps to inform voters on what needs to be done to participate in the July 7 Primary Election process since it will mostly be done by vote-by-mail because of Gov. Murphy’s orders.

“The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders has been receiving numerous calls from constituents who are voicing their displeasure over having limited polling places open where they would fill out provisional ballots and over receiving vote-by-mail ballots that they have not requested,” said Ocean County Freeholder Gary Quinn, who is liaison to the Ocean County Clerk’s Office. “Unfortunately, I have told people our hands are tied and this is what Gov. Murphy has ordered.”

Ocean County voters, just as voters across the state, will participate in the Primary Election on July 7.

Quinn noted there are several changes voters need to be aware of this year resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Per Governor Murphy’s executive order, the Primary Election will now be conducted for the most part via vote-by-mail. Mail in ballots for all Democrat and Republican registered voters and mail in ballot applications for registered unaffiliated voters are currently being sent to Ocean County voters. Voters are urged to check their mail for the ballot and don’t delay returning the ballot or application back to their county offices.

Gov. Murphy’s executive order also provides for some regional polling centers to be open on Election Day for voters to vote by way of paper provisional ballots and to accommodate disabled voters.

“This is very different from casting a ballot on a voting machine at your area polling place as so many of us are used to,” said Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Board of Elections.

All totaled, Ocean County will be mailing out more than 800,000 pieces of mail for the July 7 Primary Election.

“This process comes with a heavy price tag,” Quinn said. “The hours alone to assemble all of this information and get it out in a timely fashion to the voters is staggering.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t send out a huge thank you to all of the Ocean County government employees that have been working seven days a week to prepare all of this information,” Quinn said. “So many County workers from all departments have pitched in to help out and get these ballots and related election materials in the mail and to our voters.”

Many voters have already received the vote by mail ballot or an application in the mail. All Ocean County voters should have this information by the end of the week of June 15.

Haines encouraged people to check their mail and not throw the ballot or ballot application out thinking it might be a marketing solicitation.

“With concerns over how long Covid 19 may last on surfaces, many people have been taking in their mail differently and with an abundance of caution, they are throwing out those pieces that do not look familiar to them,” Haines said. “It is very important for people to go through their mail, fill out the ballot and get it back to the county so their vote can be counted.”

Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than 8 p.m. July 7. The deadline for delivering your ballot in person to the Ocean County Board of Elections or placing it in one of the secure drop boxes is also 8 p.m., July 7. Drop box locations will be announced at a future date.

Ocean County voters will receive a notice with their ballot outlining the steps that need to be taken along with websites and phone numbers for further assistance if needed.

Because New Jersey holds a closed Primary Election, a registered voter must be affiliated with the Democrat or Republican Party and can only vote one ballot – either Democrat or Republican in a Primary Election.

If you tear, deface or incorrectly mark your ballot, it can be returned to the Ocean County Clerk’s Office for a new one.

“Under the circumstances we are doing all we can to make sure our citizens know the procedure to vote in the upcoming election,” Quinn said. “Many of our residents have told us that vote by mail comes with numerous concerns including not getting the ballot in the mail, not returning it on time and other concerns. They don’t want to vote by mail but with Gov. Murphy limiting the number of polling places that will be open Election Day it makes traditional voting difficult to access this year.”

Registered voters not affiliated with a political party also will be mailed a postage paid vote-by-mail application. The application can be filled out and sent back to the County Clerk’s office to receive either a Democrat or Republican vote-by-mail ballot.

While a limited number of polling places will be open on Election Day, only provisional paper ballots will be available at those locations.

Do not bring your vote-by-mail ballot to the polling place on Election Day and do not expect to vote on a voting machine at the polling place,” Haines said. “These are the rules determined by Gov. Murphy.”

There will be no sample ballots distributed for this election as in the past but they are available to view it on the Ocean County Clerk’s website at www.oceancountyclerk.com and will also be posted at the limited number of polling places open on Election Day.

“Participating in the 2020 Primary Election will be very different,” Quinn said. “We want our voters to be well informed of what they need to do and to know we are available to answer any questions they may have.”

If you have any questions please check www.oceancountyclerk.com for updates and information. You can also call the Ocean County Clerk’s office at 732-929-2018 or the Ocean County Board of Elections at 732-929-2167.