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Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

Mandates council tosses Grewal’s VBM appeal

Perpetual VBM law still null and void

By Nikita Biryukov, December 06 2019 12:14 pm

The New Jersey Council on Local Mandates unanimously denied a motion filed by Attorney General Grewal to reconsider a decision that nullified the state’s new vote by mail law.

John Sweeney, the council’s chairman, said there was no framework that allowed the council to reconsider its decisions.

“There is no provision in the Rules of Procedure that permits the filing of a Motion for Reconsideration,” Sweeney said in the letter. “There is no such Rule because decisions that strike down a Legislative Act, signed into law by the Governor, cause that law to ‘cease to be mandatory in effect and expire.’”

Last year, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a bill that would allow voters who requested mail-in ballots to receive the same in perpetuity.

The legislature reconvened for rare August sessions this summer to pass a VBM cleanup bill after a ruling by Secretary of State Tahesha Way’s office that found the law only required county clerks to perpetually send mail-in ballots to voters who requested them in 2016 and before.

The clean-up bill included $2 million to reimburse counties for the cost of the program, but that money counted among the $235 million in spending items Murphy froze after he signed the state’s budget in June.

The New Jersey Association of Counties filed a complaint to the council that claimed the new VBM law amounted to an unfunded mandate.

The council agreed and, on Nov. 15, issued a decision essentially striking down the law because the $2 million meant to reimburse the state’s counties was frozen.

Now, the council has denied Grewal’s request for reconsideration, saying the only way for the law to be reinstated was for it to be passed and signed into law once more with proper funding.

The law was projected to help Democrats in the state’s competitive legislative districts this year by turning out voters who helped flip four Republican-held House seats in 2018 and who helped Gov. Phil Murphy win his post the year before.

jmc legal coanj clerks 12-6-19 COLM Denial of Respondent's Motion for Reconsideration in NJAC COLM 0001-19
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