Down the Ballot

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vote By Mail Getting Easier in New Jersey?

Gloucester County Times reporter Jessica Beym reported today from Trenton that a bill is moving forward in the New Jersey State Senate to allow voters to sign up to vote by mail for all future general elections. Right now New Jersey law only allows voters to sign up for one years worth of elections at a time. 

Under New Jersey Senate Bill 2756 a voter would receive ballots by mail until they had failed to vote in four consecutive elections. At that time the county clerk is instructed to send notice to the voter to determine if they have changed their address. Voters would have until the 40th day before the next general election to respond. If they fail to respond they will be required to resubmit an application to vote by mail. Currently, they have to reapply every year.

In Oregon, the county clerk keeps sending you a ballot at your current location until you or the current occupant tells them you are no longer living at that location. Any time you register to vote your location is updated. If this becomes law, residents will need to tell the county clerk that they would like mail in ballots for all future general elections. The Oregon Secretary of State's office provides a great time line of the history of vote by mail in Oregon. You can see all the historic 'firsts' Oregon has had the privilege of marking in the vote by mail movement. 

What will basically be happening in New Jersey is a waiting game. Instead of just forcing everyone to vote by mail, the bills sponsors want to make the change gradually. Over time as more and more people discover the convenience of voting by mail. Fewer and fewer people will be showing up the polling stations. These polling stations cost the government money and hopefully once New Jersey lawmakers start to see they are wasting money by keeping so many polling stations open they will take the final steps and automatically mail ballots to every registered voter. Right now the process is very tedious having to reapply for vote by mail every year. Hopefully this will fix that.

Senator James Beach (D)  and Senator Ray Lesniak (D) were the sponsors of S2756. Senator Linda Greenstein is a co-sponsor.

The bill cleared the New Jersey Senate 24-13. Now it moves onto the New Jersey Assembly.

For more information on the national vote by mail movement visit The Vote By Mail Project
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