Essex County Commissioner At-Large – Brendan W. Gill
New Jersey must mandate the use of auditable paper ballots at all polling locations
By: Brendan W. Gill
In 2019, one year prior to the most critical election in our nation’s history, I called on my colleagues in Essex County government to take the necessary steps to protect and secure the integrity of our elections and election results. In my role at the time as President of the Essex County Board of Commissioners, I began working alongside SOMA Action’s Voting Rights Committee, the Rutgers Law School International Human Rights Clinic, as well as community leaders and activists, who were concerned about the vulnerability of electronic paperless voting machines to tampering and interference by outside agencies.
I am proud that through my advocacy, the voting machine expertise of Princeton Professor Andrew Appel, and the hard work and diligence of community leaders and colleagues in Essex County government, Essex County met this challenge by implementing voting machines that utilized paper ballots – and provided a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) – at every polling location in the county. We accomplished this goal in advance of the June 2021 primary elections.
Unfortunately, New Jersey is one of eight states – along with Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas — that still have multiple counties using paperless electronic voting machines. This is unacceptable at a time when, despite overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence substantiating the integrity of the 2020 election results, a misinformation scheme designed to erode confidence in our elections is being used to rob us of our voting rights.
It is imperative that we do everything we can to ensure public confidence in our elections. From Florida in 2000, to Georgia in 2020, we have seen how voting results in just one state can determine the outcome of a presidential election. Within the past few months, we have seen how presidential elections, through their impact on the U.S. Supreme Court, directly affect the most personal aspects of our lives. If we do not trust the sanctity and accuracy of our elections, how can we expect or trust our laws to reflect the will of the people in our communities? Accordingly, I am re-issuing my challenge of 2019 and calling on New Jersey County and State officials to mandate that all polling locations statewide implement voting machines that provide a VVPAT.
In its harrowing ruling that stripped women of their Constitutional right to reproductive choice and autonomy, the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court accelerated the pace at which it is transforming the United States into a nation where the individual freedoms of every American will vary from state to state. With such private and personal issues now tied to the outcome of state and local elections, rarely in our history have elections had more of a direct impact on our day-to-day lives. All Americans must have absolute confidence that the elected officials representing them are an accurate reflection of the choices we make at the ballot box.
Like the overwhelming majority of New Jerseyans and Americans, I believe women should have full autonomy over their bodies and reproductive choices; that the Court’s ruling is an attack on gender equality; and that the consequences of this decision will reverberate for generations to come. However, as disappointed as I am in the Court’s ruling, I am equally proud and grateful that New Jersey is protected by the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, which ensures New Jersey will continue to protect the reproductive rights of women. In other states, governors and legislatures have responded to the ruling by moving swiftly to restrict access to abortion or eliminate it altogether. There are few better examples of why elections matter, and why constituents must believe in the legitimacy of their elected leaders.
The work we do to guarantee election security is meaningless if voters distrust the results. There is no greater threat to our democracy than this distrust, and those perpetuating the myth of election fraud know this. New Jersey must mandate the statewide use of voting machines that provide a voter-verified paper audit trail. I implore my colleagues in local and state government agencies throughout our state to take the necessary steps to ensure that every New Jerseyan can have absolute confidence in the outcome of our elections.
Brendan W. Gill is a Commissioner At-Large on the Essex County Board of County Commissioners. The Board is the legislative body of Essex County government and is charged with matters of oversight regarding the budget, shared services, and other affairs under the county’s auspices. He is the father of a 13-year-old and 10-year-old and lives with his wife in Montclair.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
For Additional Information – Contact:
Kyalo Mulumba, Public Information Officer
Essex County Board of County Commissioners
973-621-4452 (phone) 973-621-5695 (fax)