Wifi Struggles in New Jersey Contribute to Voting Problems

The state is using e-poll books, as the tablet-like devices are called, for the first time in an election.

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Poll workers in New Jersey struggle to connect to the internet, causing delays.

Nov. 2, 2021, 12:49 p.m. ET

Nov. 2, 2021, 12:49 p.m. ET

Gov. Philip D. Murphy cast his vote at a polling site equipped with e-voting machines in Long Branch, N.J., last month.Credit…John Jones/NJ Advance Media, via Associated Press

Election workers in New Jersey encountered problems on Tuesday connecting electronic polling books to the internet, resulting in long lines in some parts of the state as voters tried to cast ballots, including in the race for governor, officials said. The state is using the tablet-like devices for the first time in an election.

Known as e-poll books, the devices pull a list of eligible voters for each polling location from a statewide database. They were used at 139 early-voting sites in New Jersey. The e-poll books are used in tandem with electronic voting machines. It was not immediately clear how widespread the connectivity problems were or whether they were caused by technical issues or user error.

Some voters and elected officials expressed frustration over the delays, which they said had led some people to leave polling sites without voting. “I woke up to a phone call about it,” Mayor Jason F. Cilento of Dunellen, N.J., said in an interview.

Mr. Cilento, a Republican, said he went to the lone polling station in Dunellen, a borough of 7,400 people in Middlesex County, in central New Jersey, where he found 30 to 40 people waiting in line as election workers struggled to get the system online.

“They were annoyed, of course,” he said. “Then there were reboots.”

Mr. Cilento said the state should consider extending voting hours beyond 8 p.m., although the problem seemed to have been resolved later on Tuesday morning, he said.

Speaking in Newark on Tuesday, Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat who is seeking re-election, said that there were no immediate plans to extend voting, but that he would speak to his aides about the situation.

“Apparently in some places there was confusion,” Mr. Murphy said. “I don’t think it was widespread. And by the way, we got 207,000 people to vote early in person, which is far more than I thought we would on Year 1.”

A spokeswoman for the New Jersey’s secretary of state, the top election official, said in a statement that the problems were isolated.

“Most of the state’s approximately 3,400 polling locations have been operating since 6 a.m. without reported incident,” the spokeswoman, Alicia D’Alessandro, said.The affected sites have been or are being addressed. If any voters were unable to vote due to these issues, we encourage them to return to their polling location and cast a ballot.”

Some voters asked what steps the state was taking to address the problem.

“Hey @NJGov what’s with the crazy polling delays?” Carlton Haelig, a student at Princeton University, said on Twitter. “WiFi systems down at multiple locations. No one has voted at my location since they’ve opened. Polling volunteers telling people to go home.”

About 35 minutes later, he said that he was still waiting.

“They’re checking in one voter about every 15 minutes,” he said. “People clap with each successful attempt to use the check in computer. This is an absolute mess.”

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