Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo to create a task force charged with studying New Jersey’s current voting technology and what it would take to modernize these systems to prevent the potential for fraud was advanced by an Assembly panel on Monday.
“The right to vote is one of the most important rights we have, and it should not be entrusted to machines that are outdated, worn down and vulnerable to hackers and others intent on committing fraud,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This task force would study the need for updating and replacing the voting systems currently used in the state, research what voting technology would be appropriate, estimate their replacement costs and suggest ways we can pay for such equipment, so we can protect the sanctity of the voting process and ensure voters that their votes really do count.”
The joint resolution (AJR-13) creates the “New Jersey Elections Technology Study Task Force” to study and make recommendations to the governor and the Legislature about:
· the age and condition of the voting systems used currently in the state, including their strengths and potential vulnerabilities;
· what will be required from new voting systems and the personnel who operate and service such systems during the next 20 years;
· the factors that must be considered and satisfied to adopt new voting technology in this state, from the perspective of the state and local administrators of the system and the voters who will use the system;
· the voting system or voting systems that the task force believes will satisfy the legal, practical and security concerns of all parties involved with the administration, testing, and use of voting systems in this state;
· whether the state should encourage all counties to purchase the same voting system, or whether the counties should establish joint purchasing agreements to secure new voting systems or use the current procurement procedures for such purchases;
· whether simple fixes, or ‘low tech’ solutions to existing voting technology should be considered and adopted;
· the feasibility of mandating that the state take on the development of its own voting system, or any part thereof;
· the estimated cost of the different viable options available to replace existing voting systems, including any system or systems recommended by the task force;
· ways in which one or more new voting systems could be funded by the state, the federal government or by other means;
· ways in which the tabulation and reporting of votes could be done more efficiently and effectively, and in a timely manner, throughout the state; and
· such other topics relative to elections technology and voting systems as the task force deems appropriate.
“Many elections experts, including the Presidential Commission on Elections Administration, have expressed concern about the need for states, including ours, to replace aging voting systems,” added DeAngelo. “We should not wait until another ‘hanging chad’ fiasco before we start making moves to modernize our voting technology. The integrity of our electoral system is at stake.”
The task force would consist of 13 members as follows: two members of the Senate from different political parties appointed by the Senate president; two members of the General Assembly from different political parties appointed by the Assembly speaker; two county clerks, one appointed by the Senate president and the other by the Assembly speaker, who shall not be of the same political party; two county superintendents of elections, one appointed by the Senate president and the other by the Assembly speaker, who shall not be of the same political party; two representatives of county boards of elections, one appointed by the Senate president and the other by the Assembly speaker, who shall not be of the same political party; one person serving on the faculty of a college or university in this state with particular expertise in elections administration, elections technology, or both, to be appointed jointly by the Senate president and the Assembly speaker; and two members of the general public with a demonstrable familiarity with voting and elections technology, one appointed by the Senate president and the other by the Assembly speaker. To the greatest extent possible, the appointments must represent different parts of the state and its variations in population density.
Under the bill, the Director of the Division of Elections in the Department of State would have to serve as an ex-officio, non-voting member and provide information and expertise as needed.
The task force would have to meet monthly and hold at least three public hearings. The task force would have to prepare and issue a final report with its findings and recommendations to the governor, and to the Legislature, no later than one year following its organizational meeting.
The resolution was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.