Home>Governor>Murphy proposes $5 million for early voting, $15 million for VBM

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

Murphy proposes $5 million for early voting, $15 million for VBM

Unclear how administration reached those numbers

By Nikita Biryukov, August 25 2020 10:20 am

Gov. Phil Murphy wants to put $20 million behind non-traditional voting.

In his second budget address of the year Tuesday, Murphy announced a $5 million appropriation for early voting and $15 million in funding for the state’s vote by mail program.

“We will also ensure that our democracy is stronger and more resilient for the years ahead, with a $5 million investment to start us on the road to a long-term commitment to early voting, so every citizen can be sure that their voice is heard,” Murphy said.

It’s not clear how the state came to either of those numbers.

A 2015 fiscal estimate conducted by the Office of Legislative Services predicted implementing an early voting program cost $21 million to implement in the first year, with an additional $1 million annually for administrative upkeep.

More recent estimates have driven the startup costs, which are mostly associated with purchasing electronic poll books needed to smoothly administer early voting, instead of sending them down.

The startup costs drop if fewer electronic poll books are purchased, but not without offsets.

The 2015 fiscal estimate said it would cost $5 million annually — $1 million for administrative upkeep and $4 million in overtime costs — to administer the program, though inflation bumps those costs by roughly $467,000 without accounting for changes in election officials’ salaries.

It’s also unclear how the administration reached the $15 million price tag for early voting. Costs for such a program can vary widely depending on voter turnout. The more voters who request ballots, the more the state has to pay to print and mail them.

There’s no indication of whether the appropriation means the state will prepay postage for mail-in ballots as it will for the Nov. 3 elections, though some counties already pay for return postage.

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