Senate Approves Sweeney Bill to Maintain Vote By Mail Registration Status
Trenton – Legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney to guarantee that citizens who filed vote by mail applications in 2017 and 2018 will continue to receive mail-in ballots for all future elections, unless they opt out, was approved by the Senate.
The bill, S-4069, would require the clerk of each county to add to the list of registered voters receiving a mail-in ballot for all future elections any voter who requested a mail-in ballot for any election in 2017 and 2018. The voter would receive the ballot automatically without further requests or applications, unless they decided to opt out.
“We are Democrats and we want people to vote,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “The statistics show, making voting more accessible increases voter participation. It’s striking to me that we even have to be here, the last week of August, to prevent us from losing the improvements we have made to voter convenience and participation over the past couple of years. The greater the civic engagement, the healthier the democracy. This isn’t political, it’s fundamental, and we need New Jersey to have the strongest democracy possible.”
In 2014’s midterm election, 1.955 million people voted in New Jersey and 7.3% of voters used mail-in ballots. In 2018’s midterm election there was a large increase in both voter turnout and the percentage of voters that utilized mail-in ballots. 3.248 million people voted in 2018 and 12.3% of voters used mail-in ballots. This bill will make it easier for those who requested a mail-in ballot between 2017 and 2018 to vote by not requiring them to reapply for a mail-in ballot in 2019. Instead, the bill requires county clerks to automatically send mail-in ballots for all future elections, unless the voter specifically requests to opt out.
The bill would direct the Department of State to reimburse each county for the actual costs incurred by the county in implementing the provisions of the bill and would appropriate $2 million from the General Fund to the Department of State to be distributed among the counties.
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 22-10-8.
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