NJ lawmakers push for further changes to this year’s election
The changes to how New Jersey conducts the election announced Friday might not be the end of them, depending on what happens with a half-dozen bills making their way through legislative committees.
Under an executive order issued by Gov. Phil Murphy, all of the more than 6.2 million registered voters in New Jersey will be sent mail-in ballots in early October. People can still vote in person, on provisional paper ballots, as half the state’s polling places will be open, but it’s expected that most will vote by mail.
Given that it’s likely that more than 4 million people will vote, that means that potentially millions of people who have never voted by mail before will do so this fall. Some will mess up the procedure, so the state is trying to refine the process for fixing mistakes.
The process to "cure" a rejected mail-in ballot was adopted shortly before the July primary as part of a lawsuit settlement. Voters have to be told if their ballot is turned down and be given an opportunity to fix the problem.
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Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker wants to turn those rules into law, with people allowed to fix signature mismatches to be fixed as long as 14 days after the election.
“The goal with the Ballot Cures Act is to ensure that we disenfranchise no one. That we make sure that every vote matters,” said Zwicker, D-Somerset. “When a ballot may be rejected once it has been turned in, more often than not this is simple and honest mistakes.”
Secretary of State Tahesha Way says following the primary, 6,851 voters were able to verify their ballots after signature issues.
The bill would also prevent ballots from being rejected if they weren’t sealed due to a problem such as insufficient glue. Zwicker said the mistakes aren’t about fraud and are often beyond a voter’s control.
“In the end, regardless of political party, regardless of whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated, the cornerstone of our democracy is the right to have your vote counted,” he said.
The Assembly is also advancing a bill that would require ballot drop boxes to be in place by 45 days before the election, Sept. 19. Murphy's executive order requires at least 10 in every county.
This Thursday, a Senate committee is also due to take up a bill requiring early, in-person voting to be allowed at 115 locations in the state starting 15 days before the election. Another bill would allow counties to start processing mail-in votes five days before the election.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.