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Beach/Lesniak Legislation To Allow Mail-In Ballots For All Future Elections Clears Assembly

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Jim Beach (D-Camden) and Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union) that would allow voters to request mail-in ballots for all future general elections or all future elections was passed today by the full Assembly.

“The right to vote is one of, if not, the most essential element of a democracy. We should be doing everything we can to encourage and provide the means for more people to do it. This legislation will allow people, who might not otherwise be able to do so, to cast their ballot and have their vote counted,” said Beach.

“The act of voting should be made simpler and easier wherever possible, with any and all unnecessary obstacles being removed,” said Lesniak. “Voting is a fundamental principle of any democracy and we as lawmakers must ensure that as many people as possible are able to participate.”

Under the bill, S-2756, a voter would continue to receive a mail-in ballot unless the voter fails to vote in four consecutive general elections. The county clerk would be required to send a notice to the voter to ascertain whether the voter continues to reside at the address. The voter has until the 40th day before the next general election to respond to the notice. If the voter does not respond to the notice, all future mail-in ballots would be suspended until a new application is submitted. The bill would eliminate the option to request a mail-in ballot for each election that occurs during the remainder of the calendar that the request was made.

Voting by mail is an increasingly popular practice around the United States. In Oregon and most of Washington voters are required to vote by mail and polling places have been eliminated. In addition, California and Colorado have passed laws allowing voters to become “permanent absentees,” similar to a provision in this bill. In the California Presidential Primary in February 2008, 42 percent of voters voted by mail.

The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk.

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