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TRENTON - Senator Nia H. Gill today introduced legislation to establish early voting in New Jersey. The Legislation would permit voters to cast ballots in person at designated polling locations as early as 15 days prior to an election.
“Our current system limits the window for voters to cast their ballots at traditional polling places to a single day,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “Our goal must be to ensure that all voters have an opportunity to have their voices heard. Early voting will expand voter access and ensure that in the event of an emergency – such as a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy – or an unforeseen scheduling conflict, residents are not faced with the prospect of not being able to vote.”
The bill would establish an early voting procedure to allow voters to cast their ballots at designated polling places starting on the 15th day before the primary election and the General Election, and ending on the second day – or the Sunday – before the election. A municipality holding elections on the second Tuesday in May, by an ordinance adopted by its governing body could also conduct early voting for municipal elections.
Early voting would enable a registered voter to vote at a designated polling place. The polling place would be open to voters for eight hours each day, seven days a week, using the same machines, ballots and procedures used on the day of any election. Each county board of elections would designate at least one public location in each municipality for early voting, including but not limited to courthouses, libraries, and the offices of the municipal clerk and the county clerks. Whenever possible, each location would be geographically located in the part of the municipality that features the greatest concentration of population, according to the most recent federal census. No public school building could serve as an early voting location.
“Early voting will also provide flexibility to voters by allowing them to cast their ballots at a time and on a day that is most convenient for them,” added Senator Gill. “New Jersey should update its election laws to reflect a 21st Century world by expanding opportunities for people to participate in the process and exercise their most fundamental constitutional right.”
Currently, two-thirds of the states--32, plus the District of Columbia--offer some sort of early voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“Early voting would give residents the ability to vote up to 15 days before an election, including on weekends,” said Senator Gill. “This process has already been implemented in a number of states across the country and is working well. It is well past time that New Jersey begins to work towards expanding voter access in this state.”
The measure was introduced today. It has not yet been referred to a Senate committee.
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