To help ensure more equal distribution of ballot drop boxes throughout a municipality, Assemblyman William Moen sponsors a bill to allow county boards of elections to relocate certain ballot boxes. The legislation was approved by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday.
Criteria established by law regarding placement of ballot drop boxes – such as at college campuses and municipal buildings – has resulted in certain boxes being located much closer to each other than other boxes. This has left some residents without any boxes nearby and other residents with more than one box in their vicinity.
The bill (A-5373/S-3322) would allow county boards of elections to relocate boxes if they are within 2,000 feet of another box – regardless of existing criteria regarding placement. Members of a county’s Board of Elections would determine the new location, which must be within the same municipality as it was originally located.
“It is not fair for some New Jersey residents to have to trek miles to drop their ballot off while other residents have multiple boxes to choose from within just blocks of each other,” said Assemblyman Moen (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Allowing county boards of elections to determine better locations for boxes that are unnecessarily close together will help ensure more voters have equal access to these secure receptacles.”
During 2020, New Jersey expanded its use of mail-in ballots to allow residents to safely participate in elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. Boxes were placed throughout the state to serve as another way for residents to deliver their ballots, if they did not want to put their ballot in the mail or physically hand it in at a polling site.
“These drop boxes will continue to serve as a place for residents to drop off their ballots going forward,” said Moen. “Rather than forcing boards of elections to spend taxpayer money on entirely new boxes, this legislation will allow them to better allocate the resources they already have to ensure equitable elections.”
Whenever possible, the bill mandates that at least one ballot drop box must be located in a municipality with an average per capita income or a median family income at/below 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline.
“Drop boxes, strongly embraced by New Jersey voters in previous elections, are secure and reliable and should be easily accessed. A-5373 will ensure that the number of drop boxes in municipalities is maintained while also allowing needed flexibility for them to be placed where they are most accessible to voters,” said Henal Patel, Director of the Democracy and Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice – an organization in support of the bill. “We commend lawmakers for ensuring that this bill addresses deficiencies in current law by requiring that drop boxes not be disparately placed in a manner that hinders access for Black and other voters of color in our cities and that, through another bill that moved forward today, they won’t be placed at law enforcement agencies going forward.”
The legislation now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.