As New Jersey has expanded ways to cast your ballot, people are more empowered than ever to exercise their right to vote. To continue shaping the state’s pro-democracy election infrastructure, the Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced a seven-bill election reform package on Thursday aiming to further boost voting transparency, security, and participation.
“At a critical and harshly partisan time in our country, as others have moved to make it harder not easier to vote and the federal government has often been unable to act decisively, I think we can be exceptionally proud to boast that New Jersey is bucking the trend,” said Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin (D-Middlesex).
Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Coughlin and Assembly members John DiMaio, Sterley Stanley, Aura Dunn, and Joe Danielsen would require county Board of Elections websites to uniformly report unofficial results on election night. Voters would be able to see the number of votes cast, counted, and remaining to be counted broken down by how a ballot was cast whether by machine during early voting or on Election Day, by mail, or provisionally.
“Learning lessons from the way we have conducted our elections, following a number of incredibly meaningful election expansions, we now know what is needed to bolster our election infrastructure in a way that further empowers people,” said Coughlin.
The bill would also enable mail-in ballots to be processed, but not counted, beginning five days before an election in order for the unofficial results of both in-person and by-mail votes to be reported together as soon after the close of polls as possible. Processing ballots involves the verifying voter signatures and physically preparing ballots for tabulation.
“At the heart of this package, we are working to maintain citizens’ trust and confidence in our election outcomes. My bill specifically looks to do that by catching up the way we process, count, and report ballots, which in turn ensures the public are seeing real-time results reflective of all votes cast whether early, by mail, or at the polls on Election Day,” said Coughlin.
Currently, election officials must retrieve ballots from drop boxes every day, which in some communities is unnecessary and puts a strain on limited resources. To resolve this time-consuming and potentially costly requirement, the bill would additionally enable county elections officials to establish a pickup schedule to which officials from both parties agree.
Finally, addressing an issue arising from a processing glitch that unintentionally disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters in primaries, the bill would remove the ability to change your party affiliation at the Motor Vehicle Commission.