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NJ lawmakers pass measure updating vote-by-mail law

August 27, 2019

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey voters who requested vote-by-mail ballots in 2017 and 2018 would continue to get them for future elections unless they opt out under a bill heading to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

The Democrat-led Assembly passed the measure Tuesday after the Democrat-controlled Senate approved the bill Monday.

Murphy spokeswoman Alyana Alfaro said the governor intends to sign the bill.

The measure updates a 2018 law that mandated that voters who signed up for and got mail-in ballots for the 2016 general election would continue to get those ballots for future elections, unless they opt out.

Lawmakers said that the law, however, failed to specifically address those who requested 2017 and 2018 mail-in ballots.

The new measure requires that those voters also get mail-in ballots unless they opt out.

The bill also sets aside $2 million for counties to implement the law.

Republicans balked at the bill. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick said Tuesday that the bill was political and an attempt by Democrats boost the number of voters who cast ballots for them.

“If someone wants to vote by mail, then each year they (should have to) contact the clerk and they become a vote-by-mail applicant. I don’t think that’s an outrageous system,” he said. “Why is it automatic? ... They thought it was in their best interests to do it.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney said that the measure made voting more accessible and that it would increase turnout.

“We are Democrats and we want people to vote,” he said in a statement.

New Jersey is one of 28 states that permit voters to get mail-in — sometimes called absentee — ballots without any excuse, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Neighboring New York and Pennsylvania, unlike New Jersey, require a rationale for absentee voting and do not permit voters to cast ballots early.

In New Jersey in 2016 about 356,000 voted by mail-in ballot, or 9 percent of the total number of ballots cast.

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