WHELAN BILL EXPANDING VOTING RIGHTS FOR NEW JERSEY RESIDENTS LIVING ABROAD CLEARS SENATE

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TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan that would make it easier for New Jersey residents living abroad to vote cleared the Senate today.

The bill, S-92, would revise the “Overseas Residents Absentee Voting Law” to more closely resemble the federal overseas voting laws. Based on the federal Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act, which was approved and recommended for enactment by the Uniform Law Commission in 2010, this bill would incorporate into New Jersey law the few provisions that have not yet been adopted since its enactment. The bill would add definitions for previously undefined statutory terms and expand the definition of “overseas voter” to expressly include legally recognized partners of military service personnel, voters born outside of the United States, and overseas voters with a residence in New Jersey.

“It is important that all citizens of New Jersey, living here or abroad for any number of reasons, have a voice in our state’s and our nation’s democracy,” said Senator Whelan (D-Atlantic). “Revising our voting laws to reflect already-enacted federal ones is necessary housekeeping, and expanding the definition of overseas voters will engage more citizens to exercise their right to vote in matters that affect them and their families.”

The bill would also allow the use of the federal postcard application to apply for an overseas ballot or to register to vote in all elections. Under the bill, for a ballot to be distributed via electronic means, the completed application must be received by 3 p.m. on the day preceding the election. Under current law, the application must be received on or before the fourth day preceding the election.

Additionally, the bill would also permit an overseas voter to use the federal write-in absentee ballot to vote, to register to vote, and to request an overseas ballot for all elections held in the State. Under current law, such ballots can be used to vote only in elections for federal offices.

“This legislation sends the clear message that state elections are just as important as federal ones, and that every citizen who desires to play an active role in our state’s affairs can do so,” said Senator Whelan (D-Atlantic).

Under the bill, the types of valid identification that may be used in an application for an overseas ballot would include a valid U.S. Passport, U.S. Passport Card, Certificate of Citizenship, or any other form of identification recognized under federal or State law.

The bill would also expressly limit the permitted uses, or disclosures, of a voter’s e-mail address and would require that these limitations be described on the request to use an e-mail address.

The bill cleared the Senate with a vote of 35-0. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.