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Senate President Steve Sweeney. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Sweeney prepared to back early voting

Senate president, governor find common ground on ballot access

By Nikita Biryukov, July 30 2020 2:33 pm

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) is prepared to back early voting.

“I believe in early voting,” he said Thursday.

Sweeney’s comments supporting the practice come a day after Gov. Phil Murphy put the early voting ball into the legislature’s court.

On Wednesday, the governor made a full-throated endorsement of early voting, adding that he needed the state’s lawmakers to send him a bill.

“I’m very happy to have the conversation with the administration,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney has backed a bill that would allow 15 days of early voting since 2015, though none of those bills made it to a committee hearing. Murphy’s comments on Wednesday suggested the governor would prefer a longer early voting period of 30 days, though the 15-day period is more common in other states.

That may change if lawmakers take another run at the issue this year, Sweeney said, pointing to the measure’s popularity among Democrats.

“I know on the Democrats’ side, there’s always been. I can’t speak for the Republicans, to be honest with you,” Sweeney said. “It’s really always been a problem of cost.”

The measure isn’t cheap. A fiscal estimate drafted in 2015 predicted that early voting could take more than $21 million to enact, on top of annual expenditures of about $1 million to administer the program.

Those figures are likely to have risen over the past five years, though those increases may be offset somewhat by counties that have already purchased electronic poll books.

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