In keeping with New Jersey law, Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 164, and our own bylaws, the Mercer County Democratic Committee (MCDC) held its biennial county reorganization meeting on July 28. To make it safe for as many County Committee members as possible to participate, the meeting was conducted as a telephone town hall, with no requirement for email or an online connection. Although there were some technical issues and some unmuted participant crosstalk, conducting the meeting this way allowed over 500 people to take part.
As Chair of the MCDC Reorganization Meeting, I was asked to chair the Nominating Committee, again in keeping with MCDC bylaws and past practice. The Nominating Committee received letters of interest from all incumbent officers, but there was only one contested office, that of MCDC Chair. Following the report of the Nominating Committee to the reorganization meeting, MCDC members approved all non-contested positions and then proceeded with the contested chair race.
To ensure voter privacy and integrity, voting for the contested position of County Chair was conducted via an independent third party firm, Election Buddy, which specializes in secure and secret virtual voting. The MCDC contract with Election Buddy specified their highest security option, calling for neutral Election Buddy professionals to administer all aspects of the MCDC election for County Chair. This, among other things, ensures that no one at MCDC will ever know how another County Committee Member voted in the contest for County Chair.
Most County Committee members voted for County Chair by secure text or email using electronic ballots distributed by Election Buddy. In addition, Election Buddy made it possible for Committee Members who could only vote by phone to do so by calling in to a secure phone number established solely for our election.
After making contact with an Election Buddy professional, phone voters were verified as eligible, asked for their vote, had the vote confirmed, and then Election Buddy recorded the vote. Because of the phone interaction, votes recorded this way take much more time to process. For each vote by phone, as with all text and email votes, the identity of phone voters is protected by Election Buddy as a fundamental part of their system.
However, it became apparent to the Convention Committee that many County Committee members who were attempting to vote via phone were having difficulty connecting to record their vote. The vendor confirmed there was a backlog of individuals waiting to vote via phone. In reviewing the election with Election Buddy several days later, we learned that many more people called to record their vote by phone than expected, resulting in backlogs of calls and voice mail messages.
To ensure that all eligible committee members were able to vote and have their voted counted, the period for the voting was extended until 10 PM. This, as was said at the time, is the same as keeping in-person polls open to everyone who was in line at the time of the vote. Election Buddy confirmed that the extended period provided enough time to work through the call backlog.
This extended voting timeline was quickly and repeatedly communicated to Committee members via the telephonic town hall as well as online and via social media. As of 10 PM when all Committee Member calls had been addressed, 376 committee members or 93% of eligible County Committee voters, had cast their vote.
With the vote closed, Election Buddy tabulated the results. As soon as the results were reported to the Convention Committee, they were communicated to the two candidates, to the County Committee members participating in the Zoom call, and on the MCDC website and Facebook page.
During a deadly pandemic, the MCDC adapted to conditions to hold our first virtual meeting. Over 500 attended, adapting to conditions, and 93% of eligible MCDC voters cast their vote for MCDC County Chair. I look forward to the day when we can all meet in person again. Until then, I am proud of that we fulfilled our legal and moral obligation during this reorganization and am confident we continue to make progress together.
Kevin Kuchinski, Chair
Mercer County Democratic Committee Reorganization Meeting