Smith/ Sweeney Measure To Permit Increased Use Of Absentee Ballots Clears Senate

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Bob Smith and Stephen M. Sweeney that would permit any legally registered voter to use an absentee ballot, under any circumstances was approved today by the Senate.

“The right to vote is such a definitive American value, and by expanding the power of the absentee ballot for New Jersey voters, we are upholding the core of American democracy that was cherished by our forefathers,” said Senator Smith, D-Middlesex and Somerset. “To have a true representative government you need the input and participation of the people you represent. By giving voters greater availability to take advantage of the absentee ballot, we are engaging more people in the political process and allowing them to determine their own fate in regards to their representatives in local, county, state and federal offices.”

The Senators’ measure, S-1133, would amend current law to permit any legally registered voter to use an absentee ballot without having to provide a reason. The bill would include instructions for the correct use of absentee ballots. The instructions would contain detailed directions for voters to list the name, address and signature of anyone who helped them with their absentee ballot. Election candidates would not be permitted to provide any assistance or deliver absentee ballots on behalf of voters. To help ease the voting process for disabled residents, voters who are permanently disabled would only be required to submit their absentee ballot application once, and they would receive an absentee ballot for every election cycle in perpetuity.

Currently, any voter requesting an absentee ballot is required to include with their application an explanation of why they want to vote by absentee ballot. Under the proposed measure, voters requesting an absentee ballot would first be required to submit an application to their county or municipal clerk. Once the clerk received the completed application, the signature on the document would be compared with the signature on file in the voter signature registry. The clerk would then compile and update daily a list of voters who received absentee ballots to prevent double voting. Voters receiving absentee ballots would not be permitted to vote at a polling place.

“Absentee ballots are designed to provide full voting power to voters who just aren’t able to make it to the polls on election day,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “This measure would allow absentee voters to maintain their privacy as they cast their vote for elected officials.”

This measure was approved by the Senate State Government Committee on June 16. It now heads to the Assembly for approval.

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