Another early voting bill has passed through the Senate, and though it is likely to face the same grim fate as its progenitors once it reaches the governor’s desk, its necessity has never been more apparent. The lesson derived from a recent report by the Constitutional Rights Clinic at the Rutgers School of Law is watertight: Opening polling sites for days or weeks before Election Day would revitalize civic interest, increase turnout, and prevent the chaos that can result from weather emergencies. Speaking of which, the study specifically cites the Keystone Kop choreography of Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, calling the measures she took that year “illegal, insecure, and confusing,” and asserting that her unauthorized executive decisions “unilaterally altered New Jersey election law.”
A little perspective here: This was a perfect storm — a confluence of natural disaster, mass confusion, and executive dysfunction. So while the study trashes the Christie-Guadagno administration for mistakes that include breaking at least three laws (in response, Gov. Christie’s office calls the study “ivory tower nonsense”), it happened during a crisis. But it also demonstrated a need to revise the system.
So with the study still fresh, Nia Gill (D-Essex) and other Senate Democrats believe a longer voting period not only expands the franchise, it also acts as a safeguard against unforeseen circumstances.
Indeed, it will likely fail, just as it did 19 months ago, when Gov. Christie dismissed the proposal as “hasty, counterproductive, and less reliable,” which many other states could instantly refute. He also cited the $25 million cost, even though much of that could be offset with a reduction in hours that polls are open.