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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Murphy: Early voting ‘makes complete sense’

By Nikita Biryukov, July 29 2020 3:57 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy is all-in on early voting.

“I’m a huge believer in early voting, period. I need legislation,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve not, for whatever reason, been able to get it in this state, but I think it makes complete sense.”

Though New Jersey residents can deliver mail-in ballots to county clerks in-person until a few hours before polls close — the practice has been far less consistent amid the COVID-19 crisis, which saw many government buildings closed to the public for months — the state lacks a dedicated early voting program.

Though he has advocated for early voting in the past, the proposal has a greater draw amid the pandemic, when crowded polling places or long lines run the risk of spreading the virus.

“If you knew it wasn’t just vote by mail, which is a huge flexibility that takes some steam out of the challenge, but if you think of not just having one day to vote but you have one place per county that was open for 30 days, say, before the election, and you knew you had that option and it wasn’t reliant on the fact that you had to work on election day or the weather was unforgiving,” he said.

The 30-day early voting period is a little ambitious. Most states provide voters with roughly half as much time to cast ballots in-person ahead of election day.

Senate President Steve Sweeney may support early voting. He’s backed a bill that would allow 15 days of early voting since 2015, though none of those bills made it to a committee hearing.

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