TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Raymond J. Lesniak and Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney which would create a Vote by Mail system to allow more New Jerseyans to take part in the democratic process was approved by the Senate State Government Committee today by a vote of 3-2.
“Throughout the nation, more and more states are adopting Vote by Mail systems to give busy Americans a chance to participate in their democracy,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “In Oregon and Washington, the entire voting process takes place at the mailbox, rather than the ballot box, and California has a Vote by Mail program similar to the one we’re proposing in this legislation. As we work to expand voter participation and give voters an alternative to traditional polling locations on Election Day, Vote by Mail will be a big part of our efforts moving forward.”
The bill, S-1380, would eliminate the designation of “absentee ballot” in favor of a three-tiered Vote by Mail system. Under the first tier, the system would allow voters who wish to vote by mail for all future general elections without further request for a mail-in ballot to do so. Under the second tier, voters would have the option to vote in all elections that occur within a calendar year by mail-in ballot, and under the third tier, voters would have the option to vote by mail in only an individual election.
The bill and subsequent amendments address the possibility of voter fraud, including requiring the county clerk to compare the signature on the mail-in ballot with the signature on the voter’s permanent voting registration; requiring the Statewide Voter Registration System to record and monitor applications for mail-in ballots; and prohibiting the county clerk from transmitting a mail-in ballot to voters deemed to be inactive. The bill also requires the Statewide Voter Registration System to enact a provision to allow county boards of election to verify the identity and signature of each person requesting a mail-in ballot.
“While we want to make the voting process as accommodating as possible for New Jersey voters, we also need to preserve the integrity of the election process,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “This bill strikes a proper balance between voter accessibility and fraud prevention, and ensures multiple layers of scrutiny to root out corruption and voter fraud. This bill would make it easier for people to vote in the Garden State, while making sure that their votes are properly counted, and not vulnerable to fraud and abuse.”
The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee before going to the full Senate for consideration.