Seeking to give residents more voting alternatives following the Election Day woes created by Superstorm Sandy, Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) will introduce a bill creating an early voting option for primary and general elections in New Jersey. “People are busy. Many have long work days or other responsibilities that prevent them from hitting the polls on Election Day. Then there are the natural disasters that we simply can’t plan for. Sandy threw a wrench into the machinery of Election Day and created tremendous confusion in some counties,” said Wisniewski. “This is a matter of convenience and ensuring that 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. 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 proposed by Wisniewski creates an early voting process to allow registered voters in New Jersey to cast their votes at specially designated polling places, starting on the fourth Monday before a primary or general election and ending on the Sunday before the election. A municipality holding municipal elections on the second Tuesday in May may also conduct early voting for those municipal elections via an ordinance adopted by its governing body. A voter who participates in early voting would not be allowed to vote by mail-in ballot or in person on Election Day.
Under the bill, each county board would 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 take place. The sites would be open for eight hours each day, seven days a week, and early voting would be conducted using the same machines, ballots and procedures used on the day of any election.
A duly-registered voter would be permitted to vote after signing an early voting voter certificate, and after the voter’s eligibility to vote is ascertained in the same manner as is done on Election Day. At least once each day during the early voting period, and prior to the start of the regularly scheduled election, each county board must make such changes as may be necessary to the voter’s record in the statewide voter registration system and the signature copy register used at each polling place to indicate that a voter has voted in that election using the early voting procedure.