Marge McCabe, administrator of the Sussex County Board of Elections is amused when she is asked how it feels to work 4 days a year. Little do they know that extensive election preparations start months before Election Day. Voting machines are cleared, tested and programmed, advertising is prepared, poll workers are trained, temporary staff is lined up, new voters are registered, challengers are appointed, transportation is arranged, absentee ballots are processed, and poll worker supplies are gathered and packed. After Election Day, provisional ballots are counted, voter history is updated, voting machine audits are scrutinized, and reports are prepared. With eight elections in 2008 (including what some call the biggest election in history), and only four full-time staff handling 97,000 voters, the work has been daunting.
"This General Election was particularly challenging", says McCabe, who had to manage with even fewer staff after the resignation of her manager of elections technology, while overseeing the registration of 8,000 voters in the six weeks prior to the election. "Our job is to ensure that everyone who is entitled to vote is able to vote (but only once) and that their vote is accurately counted, whether on the machine or by paper ballot", McCabe said. The Sussex County Board of Elections prides itself on the matrix of security checks in place, including electronic and paper trails, along with numbered seals on virtually every piece of equipment, and is diligently educating election officials, voters, pollworkers, lobbyists, legislators and governmental agencies on the security of the voting machines.
This historic election saw a record number of voters at the polls with the highest percentages in Fredon Township. Twenty-two of the county's voting districts had over 80% turnout. "The poll workers were excited to see so many come out to vote. It makes their day more interesting", said McCabe. "While we were non-stop all day, there were very few issues due to the training all the poll workers received just prior to the election. Everyone was on the same page".
The election does not end at 8:00 on election night, however. Two days after the election, the commissioners of the Board of Elections come in to open and count the provisional ballots. A provisional ballot is issued to a person whose name is not in the roster book but who believes they are entitled to vote. This allows the Board of Elections to investigate each voter to determine their eligibility. The General Election had over 600 provisional ballots, which took the commissioners two days to process. Once these numbers were added to the Election Day totals, official results were released.
This year there has been little time to recuperate, and with the Hardyston Township Special School Referendum scheduled for December 9th, the Board of Elections is in high gear once again.