Assembly Judiciary Committee Advances Coughlin’s Election Reform Package

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The Assembly Judiciary Committee today introduced a package of electoral reform bills led by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge); the seven banknotes of the package previously authorized the Committee on State and Local Governments of the Assembly last month.

One of the most controversial measures was A3817, which would require advance and absentee ballots to be counted by electoral district rather than by municipality, shorten the processing time for absentee ballots, and allow voters to request absentee ballots and update their voter registration online. , among other changes.

Henal Patel of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice testified against the bill’s changes to the hardening deadline, saying it would create an unfairly small window for voters. She argued that many voters using mail-in ballots would not be able to receive and return cure notices within 9 days.

“They’re relying on snail mail,” Patel said, joining representatives of the League of Women Voters in urging the legislature to maintain the current 13-day window.

The bill also drew skepticism from Dale Florio, representing county clerks in the state, who said expanding online voter registration capabilities would require clerks to compare electronic signatures with signatures. physical or “wet”.

“If convenience is definitely your goal, that’s understandable,” Florio said. “If you want to make sure the person is who they are, the two wet signatures are really the only way to do that.”

Patel, speaking with the New Jersey Globe, dismissed Florio’s concerns, saying clerks are already comparing electronic signatures through the automatic voter registration system.

In response to Florio’s testimony, Republican members attempted to amend the bill to require two physical signatures. This led to an unusual situation where MP Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan) moved an amendment and MP Vicky Flynn (R-Holmdel) unwittingly seconded a motion to table the amendment instead of supporting the amendment himself. -same. After realizing his mistake, Flynn presented a second motion for amendment which was defeated by the committee.

The bill eventually passed the committee by a vote of 3-0-2, with both Republican members of the committee abstaining.

Another bill being considered by the committee would allow election commissions to begin processing and counting mail-in ballots five days before Election Day, potentially speeding up the release of unofficial election results. The bill would also require mail-in ballots postmarked on Election Day to arrive within three days of Election Day, instead of six days as is the case under the current law. .

This second measure drew ire from the League of Women Voters and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, who said it would punish voters for slow post office delivery times. The bill walked out of committee by a vote of 3-0-2, with Auth and Flynn abstaining.

The other five bills also advanced, three unanimously and two by party.

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