Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Despite Lawsuit and Numerous Glitches, New Jersey Voted, but It Wasn’t Pretty

Email in-boxes filled up and sent back bounces. There was at least one lawsuit. And the whole thing still hasn’t finished because election officials in several counties were overwhelmed. But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he is “satisfied” with how Tuesday’s impromptu experiment in email voting went.

“Given the amount of time we had to deal with what we had to deal with I’m really satisfied with how it went,” Christie said at a press conference today, which was covered by the Bergen Record. He said the problems that were reported were “scattered and anecdotal.”

County voting offices have until Friday to process all the electronic voting requests they’ve received, and then voters will have until 8 pm Friday to get their final ballots in. All the late ballots probably won’t be counted and properly recorded until sometime next week.

In the end it will make very little difference. New Jersey wasn’t exactly competitive in the presidential race — President Obama carried it by a 58-41 margin and easily salted away its 14 electoral votes. And none of its congressional races were any closer than seven or eight percentage points. Several local elections, like one in Morris County where the margin was only four with more than 20,000 mail-in ballots yet to count, were too close to call.

It is from those that there will likely arise some recounts and lawsuits. Last night I talked with Robert Brownstone, a lawyer at Fenwick & West in San Francisco who specializes in technology and electronic discovery issues. He says the way New Jersey rushed into all this without any time to prepare for concerns like data security and privacy, or even having email in-boxes with enough storage capacity to handle the increased load, are going to be grounds for numerous complaints. “I heard of at least one local election official who told people to send requests to his personal Hotmail account,” Brownstone told me.

New Jersey officials were trying to make the rules as flexible as possible in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. “On the other hand, the more desirable approach would be to tell people to fill out provisional paper ballots anywhere in the state,” Brownstone said. Electronic votes are too easy to copy and send over and over, he said. “I think they’re going to end up with a lot of extra votes that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.” And while some of those extra votes may have been intentional and therefore fraudulent, most of them, he said, will be the result of mistakes.

So while all the national races are settled, lots of the local races will probably have long, drawn-out recount processes — followed by lawsuits.


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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”