Van Drew Bill To Create Internet Voting Program For Military Personnel Approved By Committee

Bill Would Create Pilot Program Allowing Soldiers to Participate In Primary And General Elections Online

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew to create a program allowing military personnel to vote online in certain elections while abroad was approved today by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.

The bill (S-2247) would create a pilot project to allow Internet voting by military personnel who are unable to vote in New Jersey due to their service. The program would permit online voting in both the primary and general elections of the pilot year, and would begin six months after the November General Election occurring in the calendar year the bill is signed.

“Our men and women in uniform are literally putting their lives on the line for us each day. They are returning home with severed limbs, brain injuries and severe anxiety disorders, all of which are the cost of protecting our freedom,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “The least we can do is guarantee their access to one of the fundamental rights we enjoy as citizens – the right to vote.”

Currently, overseas citizens who are eligible to vote may do so by absentee ballot, which they may receive through traditional mail or electronic means. The intent of the Internet voting bill is to make the process more efficient and more easily accessible.

“While we wander into the voting booth on Election Day – coffee and doughnuts in hand, and BlackBerries just tucked away – our military personnel are dodging bullets overseas,” said Senator Van Drew. “We must always remember that it’s the extraordinary sacrifice of our brave soldiers that allows us to go about our daily lives with the kind of ease that we do. Providing them easy access to an election ballot to vote for the leaders who ultimately make war-time decisions is among the most basic of rights we can afford them.”

The bill would require the Secretary of State to create an Internet-based voting system that ensures the security of the ballot, the privacy of the voter and the integrity of the voting process. The Secretary of State would be required to consult with representatives of the county clerks, superintendents of elections and county boards of elections in the development and implementation of the pilot project.

Within 120 days following the General Election in which Internet voting is used, the Secretary of State would be required to submit a recommendation to the Governor and the Legislature as to whether the program should be discontinued; expanded and further studied; or adopted permanently.

The bill was approved by a vote of 4-0-1.