TRENTON – With nine days of early in-person voting starting Saturday, leading up to Election Day on Nov. 8, state law enforcement officials detailed measures being taken to ensure a smooth election.

Voter Protection Initiative

Attorney General Matthew Platkin said his office and the Division on Civil Rights have established a Voter Protection Initiative for the 2022 general election, focused on addressing voting rights and civil rights violations during early voting and on Election Day.

It will work with community groups and others to identify issues, operating independently of the attorneys in the state Division of Law who represent state and county elections officials.

“The right to vote is sacred, and we will do everything in our power to safeguard that right,” Platkin said. “Now more than ever, it is critical that we ensure that New Jerseyans do not face intimidation, discrimination, or harassment when exercising their constitutional right to vote.

“Our department’s initiatives to protect the right to vote during this election will ensure that every eligible voter will be able to cast a ballot and that anyone who attempts to interfere with the voting process will be held accountable to the full extent of the law,” he said.

Election management

As usual, hundreds of attorneys from the Division of Law will work in shifts to answer emergent questions from county election officials to ensure eligible voters can cast ballots in accordance with New Jersey’s election laws.

The Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, or OPIA, will monitor voter intimidation, electioneering, election fraud and other criminal violations. It will direct reports of election interference to local and federal law enforcement as needed.

The New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell will also be monitoring for election security threats, both cyber and physical.

OPIA has also issued the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Guidance for Elections to local law enforcement officials across the State. View Guidance

Information for voters

The Department of Law and Public Safety created a webpage providing residents with voting-related resources and answers to frequently asked questions regarding the right to vote. It explains how voters can report any problems they encounter during early voting or on Election Day.

Separately, the state Division of Elections website provides a list of county-level election office contacts and other elections-related information.

Who to call to report problems

People who believe their right to vote has been interfered with, or who wish to report other voting-related problems or concerns, can call the state’s Voter Information and Assistance line toll-free at 1-877-NJVOTER.

They also can direct election-related questions to their county superintendent of elections and county board of elections.

Anyone who has been subject to discrimination or harassment in connection with voting can report the issue to the Division on Civil Rights through the NJ BIAS online portal or by calling 1-800-277-BIAS (1-800-277-2427). Depending on their urgency, complaints may be addressed during the election or after the election.

Electioneering rules

In his announcement, Platkin sought to remind the public that it is a criminal offense to solicit or electioneer voters within a “protective zone” as they enter or exit a polling location.

The “protective zone” extends 100 feet from the outside entrance of any polling site. Attempts to interfere with voters within this zone are usually handled by law enforcement officers from the appropriate agency.

Those officers will not be stationed at the polling places, in accordance with a state law enacted in January that bars them from being stationed there, to guard against potential voter intimidation. They can be called to respond to emergencies and to assist with the movement of election materials, such as delivering cast ballots to county offices.

A bill moving through the Legislature would partially unwind that law to allow plain-clothes officers to be stationed at schools and senior centers being used as polling places. But that bill hasn't made it to Gov. Phil Murphy, as the Senate and Assembly have unanimously differing versions of the change.

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Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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