After the coronavirus pandemic forced New Jersey and many other states to embrace mail-in voting and other alternative voting methods, the state’s legislators are working to shore up future elections.
Legislation designed to create and deploy an in-person early voting procedure sponsored by State Sens. Nia Gill, Linda Greenstein, and Shirley Turner was advanced by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.
Meanwhile, a bill sponsored by State Sens. Kristin Corrado and Tom Kean, Jr., that would address a shortage of election poll workers was approved by the Senate Labor Committee.
Recently, Gov. Phil Murphy announced in-person elections would return this Spring, representing his optimistic outlook for a further reopening of the state.
Expanding Early Voting
Under S-3203, a process would be designed to allow voters to cast their votes in special polling places starting 10 days before a general election and ending the Sunday before an election.
Those who vote early would be prohibited form voting via mail-in ballot or on Election Day. Early voting would only be required for a June primary and November general election, but municipalities would be able to adopt early voting by ordinance.
“Passing early voting and implementing electronic poll books will ensure our fundamental right to have our voices heard. There are few rights more important than a citizen’s ability to vote. I look forward to the full Senate passing this legislation,” said Sen. Gill.
The State Senators noted 39 states and the District of Columbia already allowed for some version of early in-person voting, while 40 states allowed for the practice at satellite polling stations.
Addressing a Shortage of Poll Workers
For those who look forward to exercising their Constitutional duty in person, the bill backed by Kean and Corrado would attempt to bolster the ranks of the state’s poll workers.
Counties often struggle to find candidates to fulfill these duties. In order to improve the attractiveness of the job, the bill would raise the rate of pay and lower the minimum age below 18.
Poll workers commit to a 15-hour workday, from before the polls open at 6 a.m. until well after the 8 p.m. close. Since 2001, the compensation rate was $200 for the day.
“Counting these wages against unemployment benefits could discourage individuals from working the polls,” said Corrado. “It will be easier to find willing workers if we can ensure them they won’t have to jump through hoops to protect their unemployment.