EDITORIAL: Went to Cast My Ballot, Was Told I’d Already Voted


Confusion at the voting booth tested Election Day procedures and poll workers’ familiarity with the process.

By Matt Skoufalos | June 4, 2024

Camden County polling place. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

I walked into my local polling place Tuesday morning, and, for the first time in nearly three decades of voting, encountered a problem.

“You’ve already voted,” the poll worker said.

“Uh, I certainly have not,” I replied.

“It says here you voted provisionally already,” came the response.

I explained again that I had not.

At this, the small group of volunteers in my neighborhood community center annex began to buzz. The 10:00 a.m. hour had just thrown its first wrinkle into an otherwise slow day.

One poll worker put in a call to the Camden County Board of Elections. I helped un-cap a stubborn pen for another while we waited.

A poll challenger reminded everyone that Superior Court judges are on standby to address any irregularities on Election Day, while another poll worker offered me the option of completing a Voter’s Complaint form, which I did.

As our hold time with the county extended, we all started guessing about what had happened. With the intensity of political rhetoric forever tightening, all possible outcomes were on the table.

Had someone taken advantage of early voting to impersonate me at the polls? (In a primary?)

Was I the victim of an errant keystroke on a temperamental touchpad? Did they mistake me for someone with a similar name?

After 45 minutes, we got the go-ahead to proceed as normal. I cast my paper ballot and scanned it into the machine, and the central office would manage the discrepancy on the back end.

But I couldn’t let it go. How had this happened? It was all too weird. So I took a drive down to the Camden County Election and Archives Center to ask some questions.

I was met by Republican Administrator Sarah Booker and Democratic Administrator Nellie McFadden, who helped put my mind at ease.

“It was an unusual circumstance,” Booker said.


Voting equipment and ballot records are under lock and key at the Camden County elections center in 2020. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

We ran down the same short list of possibilities together.

An errant vote-by-mail ballot? Early voting confusion?

A case of mistaken identity? And why was it a provisional ballot?

“Those are the things we looked for,” Booker said.

“The thing that stood out to us was the provisional was entered into the system May 22,” she continued.

“That was prior to early voting,” which began May 29, Booker said.

“We looked at the voter registration system,” she continued. “If you had voted, you would have been there already. So we knew it had to be an electronic pollbook situation.”

For tech support, the county turned to Tenex Software Solutions of Tampa, Florida, manufacturers of the electronic pollbook certified for use in New Jersey elections in 2021.

The big reveal: I had been the victim of a software testing error.

“Your name was pulled to test as someone who needed a provisional ballot,” Booker said. “We could see in the system that it was a testing error of the electronic pollbook.”

But wasn’t that just a little too coincidental? Who flags a journalist’s ballot to run a software function? Why was my name the one that was being played with?

“You were a voter ID barcode,” Booker said. “A completely random computer selection. Out of 400,000 voters, you were chosen.”

Brimming with angst or flattery, I wasn’t sure which, a sense of relief began to creep in. I hadn’t been targeted. I hadn’t been singled out. I had been mildly inconvenienced, and in the process, inadvertently freaked out a bunch of volunteers and harried public servants.

“On our end, we documented everything, including in the voter registration system,” Booker said. “We put you in as voted so you couldn’t go somewhere else and vote again.”

Voters Complaint Form. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

As if to soothe my ego, she let me know that the error, at least, was a novel one.

If I couldn’t be one in a million, at least I was one in 400,000.

And the good news is that I appeared to have been the only one.

“This has never happened before,” Booker said.

“We are looking at transactions from that date to make sure that nobody else would be affected. We will get that corrected for next time,” she said.

“This is why we have the checks and balances,” McFadden said. “We work hard to make sure that everyone votes.”

Camden County Communications Director Dan Keashen helped put it further into perspective: the system had been tested, he said, and its failsafes had held.

“You go to vote, the last thing you think you’re going to hear is that you’ve already voted, especially provisionally,” Keashen said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s a great test case to take a look and see how these redundancies and failsafes work to it can be rectified.”

Aside from the time it took to sort things out, Keashen reminded me that the fundamental principles of democracy hadn’t been violated. I’d still cast my vote, exactly as I had intended, in the normal way. It would be counted the same as all the others that went into the scanner. The folks at the Board of Elections and the volunteers at the polling place had shepherded me through the process successfully and without disenfranchisement.

“Forty-five minutes is a long time when we think about walking into the booth, pulling the lever, and leaving, but more importantly, the sanctity of the voting booth was preserved through these failsafes,” Keashen said.

“This is what our democracy was built on,” he said. “Down at the Board of Elections, they take that very seriously. It’s the resources and time spent; the individuals doing the work.

“They’re going to be there until 1:00 in the morning [on Election Day], and any glitches like this, they’ll address first-hand.

Camden County Election and Archives Center. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“We’re all just trying to make sure this process is as accurate as it can possibly be,” he said.

Regardless of your political affiliation, fairness, accuracy, and accessibility in public participation seem like fine pillars upon which to establish a voting mechanism.

Maybe it’ll catch on.

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