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Anthony Imperiale rides an elephant at a Columbus Day parade in Newark in the 1970s. A former state senator, assemblyman and Newark city councilman, Imperiale led the Ballot Security Task Force in 1981.

New law bans police officers at polling locations

By David Wildstein, January 18 2022 11:31 am

Police officers will no longer be permitted to stand within 100 feet of a polling place or ballot drop box under a new law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday morning.

The new law includes both on-duty and off-duty law enforcement but would still permit local and county police to assist in the transportation of ballots and to enter polling locations in the event of an emergency.

Election boards are now barred from requesting law enforcement assistance at a poling place.

The new prohibition does not prevent officers from voting, nor does it prevent officers from remaining in their homes if those fall within the 100-foot limit.

In 1981, the Republican National Committee recruited teams composed of armed off-duty police and sheriff’s officers in primarily non-white, Democratic neighborhoods.

That prompted a lawsuit from the Democratic National Committee, which claimed the task force illegally harassed and intimidated voters, both violations of the Voting Rights Act.

The suit ended with a consent decree barring further such deployments that lapsed in Jan. 2018.

State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence) and Assembly members Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton, Benjie Wimberly (D-Paterson) and Linda Carter (D-Plainfield) were the primary sponsors of the legislation.

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