Urges Making Voting Experience Better for All Residents
TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg today urged colleagues to take a comprehensive look at ways to improve the voting experience, saying that quick fixes may not be the panacea they are being advertised to be.
Weinberg noted that the confusion of both voters and election officials over the state’s hastily created fax and email voting program in the wake of Superstorm Sandy could only have been mitigated had a comprehensive disaster voting plan been previously devised and put in place. She said simply making tweaks to current election law may not provide a solution for the future, and noted that the storm hit the state with such ferocity that it made little difference that Election Day was more than a week away.
“Voting is a sacred right, and it is not one to be protected by just making a tweak here and there,” said Weinberg (D-Bergen). “What Sandy taught us is that we need a comprehensive plan in place to ensure that voters displaced by a storm or other disaster are not disenfranchised. We can’t simply say that one thing or another would have done away with Tuesday’s confusion. Sandy hit New Jersey a full week before Election Day, and with such ferocity it made deadlines practically meaningless.”
While ensuring an orderly process for displaced voters must be a main goal, Weinberg said the Legislature must make the voting experience easier and more accessible for all voters, not just those impacted by a disaster. She said that maintaining voter privacy and ensuring against potential fraud are essential, especially as part of any disaster preparation plan. Weinberg echoed the concern raised by some that without clearly delineated lines of control, the current email and fax balloting system may lead to some voters’ right to ballot secrecy being eroded.
“While our paramount concern is to ensure that the type of confusion voters impacted by Sandy experienced doesn’t happen again, we must take a holistic look at the voting process overall to see where we can make significant improvements that can benefit all voters,” said Weinberg. “The ballot box must be easily accessible to all residents, whether they are located in an urban area or a rural community, or if they are displaced because of a disaster. And those solutions do not come in one-size-fits-all.”