Joanne Nyikita is all for early voting, just not the way it is set up in a bill sitting on the governor’s desk. Nyikita is superintendent of elections in Burlington County, and in the weeks before a presidential election, she says, she and her staff work 15-hour days, seven days a week, registering voters and making sure things run smoothly. By in effect adding two weeks before the election during which voters can cast their ballots, she said, the state would vastly increase the work of already overstretched county election boards. Nyikita said that creating an electronic database for early-voting records would greatly lighten the load, but that there was no money for it. “It could not be done every day for two weeks. It simply could not be done,” said Nyikita, executive vice president of the New Jersey Association of Election Officials.
The group, made up of Republican and Democratic election officials, said that while it endorsed the concept of early elections, it was concerned that the program wouldn’t work without adequate equipment and funding.
Fueled by the election-day disruptions caused by Hurricane Sandy, and a movement in many states to broaden voter access, the Legislature gave final approval last month to a bill that would require county election boards to provide for early voting for a two-week period before the election.
The measure passed along partisan lines, with Democrats saying the law is needed to provide access to voters who can’t make it on Election Day, and Republicans insisting that the cost and security concerns outweigh potential advantages.
“This would expand access and, in an emergency like Sandy, people would still be able to cast their votes,” said Nia Gill (D., Essex), Senate sponsor of the bill. “Our bill addresses a public-policy issue of more access to voting, and to deny access takes us backward, not forward, in terms of the democratic process.”
John Wisniewski (D., Middlesex), the lead Assembly sponsor of the bill, called questions about cost overblown. Wisniewski maintained that county election officials can conduct two weeks of early voting by keeping records manually, just as they do now on Election Day. And he said he expected the Legislature to appropriate funds for that purpose. Electronic databases and expensive computer equipment, he said, are not necessary.
Full Article: Elections official pans N.J. early-voting bill.