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New Jersey residents hit hard by Hurricane Sandy had the option to vote by email for the first time this year. But because of some glitches in the system, email voting has been extended through Friday night.
Not only is New Jersey the first state to allow a significant portion of its population to vote by email, but state officials only had a few days to set up the system and work out any problems. Apparently it wasn't enough time, given what happened on Election Day.
The system put in place wasn't prepared for the number of requests to vote by email. Clerks had a hard time keeping up, which means some votes weren't in before polls officially closed Tuesday night.
To vote by email, New Jersey voters had to email or fax a request to their county clerk, wait for their request to be approved, and have a ballot emailed to them. Voters then filled out their email ballots and emailed them back.
In practice, however, it didn't go that smoothly.
Emailed votes got bounced back to the voter when county email inboxes filled to capacity, reports ABC News. And phone and fax lines were busy when voters wanted to request email ballots.
Some counties were so overwhelmed that they stopped processing requests for email voting because of lack of time.
As part of an emergency measure, a New Jersey court on Tuesday approved extending the deadline for voters to submit email ballots. While physical polls closed Tuesday evening, email voters will have until 8 p.m. Friday to get their votes in.
Voting is a right that states are required to protect, and obstructing citizens from voting raises serious legal issues. But New Jersey wasn't trying to actively hinder voting.
Indeed, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was out of their control, and the measures put in place to deal with the situation proved ineffective. The Friday email voting extension is a way to ensure that voting rights are upheld.
While it's unlikely the extension will affect how New Jersey's electoral votes will be distributed, it will likely have an impact on local and state candidates, as well as ballot issues. State residents affected by Hurricane Sandy now have some extra time to make their voices heard.