N.J. National Guard may be called on to provide Election Day assistance

By David WildsteinJuly 02 2020

New Jersey Globe

Soldiers from the SECFOR platoon of the 2-113th INF, New Jersey National Guard, returned home at the Riverdale Armory on April 2, 2012. The Soldiers were deployed on a year-long mission to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedrom.

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The New Jersey National Guard is likely to provide manpower to county election officials in next week’s primary election, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

The National Guard has offered to help with the election and Gov. Phil Murphy, the titular head of the state’s militia, is still working out their role.

Among the roles the National Guard is prepared to offer is working as Election Day board workers at polling locations where the coronavirus pandemic has created a staff shortage.

Election workers are traditionally older New Jerseyans who are paid $200-per-day for their work.  Many of those trained to do that job have been reluctant to spend 15 hours next Tuesday at a polling location.

The election is being conducted primarily through vote-by-mail ballots, but in-person voting at a significantly-lowered capacity will be available.  Voters needing special assistance may vote by machine; others by using a paper, provisional ballot.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey doesn’t like the idea of using soldiers to work the polls.

“We are concerned that the use of NJ National Guard members on Election Day could lead to voter intimidation. If there is no viable alternative, the state should ensure that they are unarmed and not identified in any way as a member of the military,” said Amol Sinha, the ACLU-NJ executive director.  “In this moment, where there are serious concerns of disenfranchisement, particularly of Black and Brown communities, we need to make sure we do whatever we can to ensure more people can vote, not fewer.”

It’s not immediately clear if the legal requirement that requires poll workers to be registered voters would be waived by the governor.

“New Jersey is not the first state that has had to take this step,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.  “For me, what this validates is that we could not have had a normal, in-person primary election.  If we don’t have enough poll workers for such a scaled-back operation, how in the world could we have found hundreds or even thousands more?

The National Guard in other states have performed similar tasks this year, including Wisconsin in April and in Kentucky last month.

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