New Jersey will move to a hybrid model with primarily mail-in voting for the November general election, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday, noting that 2020 will not be a "regular election year" amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Murphy said he will sign an executive order calling for all registered voters to get a ballot beginning Oct. 5 along with a prepaid return envelope. In-person voting will still be available on a limited basis.
The election will follow the model that the state used for the primaries in July, where every municipality had at least one in-person voting location, and ballots were mailed to registered voters whether they requested one or not.
"It was a success. Not perfect, but overwhelmingly a success," Murphy said.
To address concerns over the United States Postal Service's reliability, Murphy said voters will have several options to return their ballots: They can mail them, as long as they’re postmarked by Election Day (Nov. 3) or take them to at least 10 official drop boxes throughout each county, Murphy said.
There will also be a new option for the fall, Murphy said: Voters can bring their mail-in ballots in person to a polling place and hand deliver it to a poll worker. Voters can either hand deliver their ballots, or vote by provisional ballot, which means the vote will be counted only after officials determined a mail-in ballot wasn’t already cast.
Ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 will be accepted up to a week later, Murphy said.
Murphy also acknowledged the ongoing investigation over voter fraud in Paterson's mail-in election in May, saying it was a specific and isolated incident, and added that Paterson showed how law enforcement was closely watching for any issues.
“If you screw around with voting you’re going to be caught,” Murphy said. "I'm pretty sure we have a higher probability of being hit by lighting than uncovering voter fraud."
Murphy indicated there will be fewer polling places open, with each county required to have at least 50% of its polling places open. Each town must have at least one polling place open, the governor said.
“I know all of this may be new for people but I am confident that New Jersey voters, that all of us can do this,” Secretary of State Tahesha Way said.
The state Republican Party voiced strong concerns over going to a nearly all-mail election in July. It petitioned the U.S. attorney in New Jersey to install election monitors over concerns of “disenfranchisement.”
On Friday, Republican state Sen. Michael Testa said the change will cause "chaos" in the fall.
"Allowing people to spend five or ten minutes casting their ballots in person to protect the integrity of a presidential election doesn’t seem like such a great risk," he said in a statement.
Some Democrats have also voiced concerns, including the mayor of Paterson, Andre Sayegh. He said he wants there to be traditional in-person voting, noting that he was a “purist” and there was a sense of accomplishment after voting in person.
The move is likely to prompt a response from the Trump campaign, which is waging legal battles around the country against new rules promoting mail-in voting.
President Trump vehemently opposes mail-in voting, going so far as to publicly admit Thursday he's starving the U.S. Postal Service of the funds it needs to process a surge in mailed ballots.
Though he didn’t mention President Trump by name, Murphy alluded to those comments by the president, saying that the postal service was “being turned into a political football” by people who don’t believe in getting people to turn out to vote.