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Beach Bill Making It Easier To Vote By Mail Clears Committee

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Beach (D-Camden) that would make it easier for New Jersey residents to vote by mail has cleared the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.

“Having our voice heard through the ballot box is the most important thing we can do in a democracy,” said Beach. “That is why we need to make the process of voting easier, especially for those whose situations may make it more difficult for them to get to the polls. Voting by mail is an easy, increasingly popular way for people to take part in the process.”

The bill, S-3139, would permit a registered voter to request a vote by mail-in ballot in all future elections, for future general elections only or for future elections held in a municipality under the “Uniform Nonpartisan Elections Law” only (commonly referred to as May elections or nonpartisan elections). The bill would eliminate the current option whereby a voter can request a mail-in ballot for each election that occurs in a calendar year.

Under the bill, if a voter who has requested a mail-in ballot for all future elections does not vote in two consecutive elections, the voter would only receive a mail-in ballot for future general elections and the ability to receive a mail-in ballot for all other elections would be suspended until the voter submits a new application to vote by mail in all future elections.

Also, if a voter who has requested a mail-in ballot for only future general elections does not vote in four consecutive general elections, the county clerk would be required to send a notice to ensure the voter still resides at the address in the voter file. If the notice is not completed and returned before the 45th day prior to the next general election, a mail-in ballot would not be sent to the voter for that general election. The ability of such a voter to receive a mail-in ballot for future general elections would be suspended only until the voter submits a new application.

The bill would also provide that whenever sample ballots are mailed prior to an election, only one sample ballot would be delivered to each residence address where at least one resident is a registered voter. This requirement would not apply to sample ballots for general or May elections, or when registered voters have different surnames and reside at the same address, or for a registered voter who address is a post office box.

Since 2005, New Jersey has allowed citizens to vote by absentee ballot for any reason. More than half of the states now allow this form of absentee voting. The number of people voting by absentee ballot more than tripled between 1980 and 2004. In the 2004 general election, more than 20 percent of ballots were cast early or absentee.

The bill now heads to the full Senate.

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