Mon Oct 18 2021 16:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

With the 2021 General Election quickly approaching, Ocean County officials want voters to know about the expanded options available in casting a ballot for the Nov. 2 Election.

"This year, registered voters will have more options to vote than ever before," said Ocean County Clerk Scott M. Colabella, noting options include vote-by-mail, early voting and in-person voting on Election Day.

Starting Oct. 23 and running until Oct. 31, Ocean County voters can participate for the first time in early voting.

"Early voting gives our voters the opportunity to vote before Election Day in person and on a voting machine at designated early voting locations," said Ocean County Commissioner Virginia E. Haines, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Elections.

Early voting will run from Saturday, Oct. 23 through Sunday, Oct. 31. Early voting hours will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Sundays, Oct. 24 and 31.

"With only 10 locations, voters might be asking how can I cast a vote if I'm not in my traditional election district?" asked Haines. "Ocean County has worked diligently to secure new state of the art technology voting machines and also electronic poll books so that any voter from any election district can cast the proper ballot at any of the 10 locations in the County.

"Very importantly, with this new technology, every vote will have a secured paper trail," she said. "This new technology has been vetted and certified by the state of New Jersey."

Ocean County's 10 early voting locations are:
• The Berkeley Township Branch of the Ocean County Library, 30 Station Road, Bayville.
• The Brick Township Branch of the Ocean County Library, 301 Chambersbridge Road, Brick Township.
• The Jackson Township Branch of the Ocean County Library, 2 Jackson Drive, Jackson Township.
• The Lacey Community Center, (formerly the Knights of Columbus Building) Room C, 15 East Lacey Road, Lacey Township.
• The Lakewood Municipal Building, Courtroom, 231 3rd St., Lakewood.
• The Upper Shores Branch of the Ocean County Library, 112 Jersey City Ave., Lavallette.
• The Little Egg Harbor Township Branch of the Ocean County Library, 290 Mathistown Road, Little Egg Harbor Township.
• The Ocean County Southern Service Center, (Senior Nutrition Site), 179 South Main St., Manahawkin.
• The Manchester Township Branch of the Ocean County Library, 21 Colonial Drive, Manchester Township.
• The Toms River Township/Main Branch of the Ocean County Library, 101 Washington St., Toms River.

"It was important to locate early voting sites in strategic locations throughout Ocean County. These are areas of high visibility that can be secured at the end of each voting day," Colabella said. "Early voting provides an added layer of convenience to casting your ballot and a big part of that is easily accessing an early voting site."

Early voting will appear different than traditional Election Day voting. Voters entering an early voting site will be asked to sign in as done in the past.

"This year, rather than signing in on paper poll books, you will sign in on an electronic pad – very similar to the ones you use when making a credit card transaction at a store," said Colabella. "Keeping in mind the importance of health and safety, poll workers will provide each voter with a disposable stylus pen which will be used at check in and again when you vote."

Once the sign in process is complete, the voter will be given a white plastic voter card, which will be used to activate the voting machine which features a digital voting screen. You will use the disposable stylus pen to mark the choices on your ballot, and after reviewing your ballot, the voter will print the completed ballot and take it to the voting tabulator for scanning.

"Once you have inserted your printed ballot into the voting tabulator machine you have cast your vote for the general election," Haines said.

County election officials noted the digital voting technology machines will be used for in-person, early voting only. Traditional voting machines will be used on Election Day as will the electronic poll books.

"The Ocean County Board of Elections has been busy training hundreds of poll workers in order to assure early voting and Election Day voting goes smoothly," Haines said. "Poll workers will be available to answer questions at any early voting site."

Voters also have the option to Vote-By-Mail for the Nov. 2 election. Vote-by-Mail applications sent through the U.S. mail must arrive at the County Clerk's Office by Oct. 26. After that date voters must appear in person at the Ocean County Clerk's office at either the Ocean County Courthouse, 118 Washington St., Toms River, or the Ocean County Southern Service Center, 179 South Main St., Manahawkin, to apply for and obtain the vote-by-mail ballot. The in-person application deadline is 3 p.m., Nov. 1. Completed ballots can be dropped off at any of the 19 drop box locations throughout the County. A complete list of locations is available on the Ocean County Clerk website at www.co.ocean.nj.us.

As of Oct. 15, Ocean County provided 55,188 Vote-by-Mail ballots for the Nov. 2 General Election.

"We are also very pleased that once again we can go to the polls on Election Day and cast our ballot in person on a voting machine in our voting district," Haines said. "Due to state mandates, we were unable to do that last year and many voters were disappointed that option was not available to them."

Questions and additional information on casting a ballot for the Nov. 2 election can be obtained by calling the Ocean County Clerk's Office at 732-929-2153 or the Ocean County Board of Elections at 732-929-2167.

"Voting is key to our democracy," Haines said. "With all these options there is no reason not to vote."