(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Patricia Jones, Wayne DeAngelo, Vince Mazzeo and Gordon Johnson to expand voting rights for overseas residents, especially military personnel received final legislative approval, 69-2-2, in the Assembly on Thursday.
The bill (A-2815) revises the “Overseas Residents Absentee Voting Law” to more closely resemble the federal Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act by incorporating into New Jersey law those provisions that have not yet been adopted.
In doing so, the bill expands 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.
“Residents who want to continue their civic involvement while overseas should be able to do so,” said Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Aligning state law with federal law will help residents who are temporarily relocated in another country or deployed as part military assignment to participate in the election process no matter where they are living momentarily.”
“Enacting this legislation would enable hundreds of residents to vote,” said Jones (D- Camden, Gloucester). “Every person who wants to fulfill their civic duty must be able to without discouragement.”
“It must be made easier for a resident who is not in the state at the time of an election to continue their civic participation,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Whether a New Jersey resident leaves the country on business or military duty, they should have the right to vote while away overseas.”
“With this simple step, we can end the disenfranchisement of our New Jersey voters overseas,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “This legislation will help remove the bureaucratic red tape that inhibits voter participation for residents temporarily living outside of New Jersey.”
“Voting is an inalienable right of every U.S. Citizen,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “It should not matter where they are at the time of the election as long as they hold residency in the state they should be allowed to register to vote and vote by absentee ballot.”
The bill also permits 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.
Additionally, the bill permits the use of the federal postcard application to apply for an overseas ballot or to register to vote in all elections.
Currently, for a ballot to be distributed via electronic means, the completed application must be received on or before the fourth day preceding the election. Under the bill, the application must be received by 3 p.m. on the day preceding the election.
The bill also adds other types of valid identification that may be used in an application for an overseas ballot, including a valid U.S. Passport Card, a valid Certificate of Citizenship, or any other valid form of identification recognized under federal or state law.
Finally, the bill expressly limits the permitted uses, or disclosures, of a voter’s electronic address and requires that these limitations be described on the request to use an electronic address. In completing any document under the provisions of this bill, a voter’s mistake or omission that is not substantive in nature would not invalidate the document. On write-in ballots, where the intention of the voter is discernable, the ballot would not be invalidated.
The bill now goes to the Governor for further consideration.