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Beach/Norcross Bills Streamlining Sample Ballot Laws Released By Senate Panel

Measures to Limit Mailings to One-Per-Household, Allow for E-Mailed Sample Ballots Would Save Printing, Mailing Costs

TRENTON – Two bills Senators Jim Beach and Donald Norcross introduced to streamline the state’s sample ballot laws to save costs and take advantage of new technology have been released by a Senate committee.

The measures are considered parts of the property tax “tool kit” to help manage local costs.

The first bill (S-1781) would direct county clerks to send only one sample ballot to each residence address where a registered voter lives. Under current law, every registered voter receives his or her own sample ballot, a situation that leads to many households receiving individually addressed yet multiple sample ballots.

“No matter how many voters live in one household, they all get exactly the same sample ballot,” said Beach (D-Camden), who served as Camden County Clerk prior to his election to the Senate. “This is one area where less is definitely more. We can be saving tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars that we’re wasting on duplicative mailings.”

“Our current law promotes the type of duplication and waste of taxpayer money that we need to eliminate,” said Norcross. “It makes absolutely no sense that our sample ballot law cannot be ‘one per household’ instead of ‘one per customer.’”

The second measure (S-1874) would allow registered voters to request that their sample ballots be e-mailed. Under current law, sample ballots must be printed and mailed to each eligible registered voter prior to the annual general, primary and school elections. Beach and Norcross contend the move would save taxpayers the costs associated with printing and mailing the sample ballots, noting that most county clerk offices already provide PDF files of their sample ballots for voters to download.

“Mailing paper sample ballots costs money, but e-mail costs nothing,” said Norcross. “If a voter wants to receive their sample ballot in a way that gets them the information they need while saving money, there shouldn’t be anything standing in the way.”

“There is no reason that something as basic as voter outreach cannot be transitioned to the Internet age,” said Beach. “Countless residents already receive their utility bills and bank and credit card statements by e-mail. Election law should fully embrace the Internet, too.”

The Secretary of State would work with election officials to develop procedures for informing voters of the opportunity to receive a sample ballot and other materials by e-mail, maintaining the confidentiality of voter e-mail addresses and allowing voters to switch back to receiving sample ballots by regular mail.

Both bills were released from Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee by votes of 4-0. They now go to the Senate President, who determines when to post them for a floor vote.

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