Gov. Phil Murphy isn’t backing or opposing a bill that would allow mail-in ballots to be counted in the week preceding election day.
“I don’t think we’ve taken a position on that,” the governor said.
The measure’s primary stated goal is moving the filing deadline for candidates back from April to March to avoid overtime bills at county clerks’ offices.
The bill’s language appears to have been written with the intent that only ballots cast in the 2020 primaries be counted a week before polls open.
Some activists and Republican lawmakers have raised alarms over the measure, claiming political insiders could leak early returns to better inform campaign strategy in the closing week of the election.
Under the measure, results are not to be disclosed until after polls close, but leaks aren’t exactly uncommon in New Jersey politics.
State Sen. Jim Beach, who is Camden County Democratic chairman, is the bill’s prime sponsor and chairs the Senate State Government Committee that advanced it last month.
The bill has been introduced in the Assembly but has yet to heard in committee.
The Assembly State and Local Government Committee, where the bill was referred, is not scheduled to meet before the end of the lame duck session, though that could change at any time.
Murphy has often placed himself opposite Camden Democrats aligned with Senate President Steve Sweeney, and the progressives that make up the governor’s base are squarely opposed to the Camden-wing of the Democratic party.
It’s not clear whether he’ll break that way again should the bill make it to his desk.
“I won’t comment specifically on that,” Murphy said. “But as a general matter, broadening democracy and access to democracy is a passion of ours.”