An Assembly panel today advanced a Democrat-sponsored bill that would allow early voting in primary and general elections. The bill (A-3553) aims to give residents more voting alternatives following the Election Day woes created by Hurricane Sandy. “People are busy, and many have long work days or responsibilities that prevent them from hitting the polls on Election Day,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), one of the bill’s sponsors. “Then there are natural disasters that we simply can’t plan for. Sandy threw a wrench into the machinery of Election Day and created tremendous confusion. This is a matter of convenience and ensuring every resident who is registered and wants to vote will have the opportunity to do so.”
“The right to vote and participate in the democratic process is one of our most sacred rights,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “We should give residents every chance to exercise it.”
Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia currently have an early voting program allowing duly-registered voters to vote in person at specially-designated polling locations prior to Election Day.
The bill establishes an early voting process to allow voters to cast their votes at specially designated polling places, starting on the fifth Monday before the primary election and the general election, and ending on the second calendar day before the elections.
A municipality holding municipal elections on the second Tuesday in May, by an ordinance adopted by its governing body may also conduct early voting for those municipal elections.
Under the bill, early voting will enable a registered voter to vote at a designated polling place before the day of certain elections.
The bill provides that each county board is to designate each county clerk’s office in each county and each municipal clerk’s office in each municipality as the sites for early voting to occur. The sites would be open seven days a week, and early voting would be conducted using the same machines, ballots and procedures used on the day of any election.