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

With elections mostly done, Murphy turns eyes to early voting

By Nikita Biryukov, November 05 2020 2:43 pm

With Tuesday’s elections largely concluded, Gov. Phil Murphy again urged support for early in-person voting at a virus briefing Thursday afternoon.

“The one thing that I want that would address a lot of this, and it requires some amount of investment, is early in-person voting,” Murphy said. “So, the mail piece looks like it worked really well. The day-of worked looks like it worked really well, but I’d like to see us get in-person early voting.”

Murphy has long been a proponent of early in-person voting, and with Democrats in the legislature have already moved more than one bill that would make it the law of the land, most recently in late October.

That bill would require counties to run between three and seven early voting centers, with the exact number based on the county’s population.

Historically, funding has been the biggest hurdle to early voting in New Jersey. Past estimates have pegged the cost for such a program somewhere above $20 million, with $1 million in annual costs for overtime.

The upfront costs would be used to purchase electronic poll books, which would allow election officials to make sure voters who cast an early machine ballot had not already voted by mail, or vice versa.

“It requires an investment, but you’d then do away with the provisional balloting that we had to live with this year because we couldn’t get the investment done in time,” Murphy said. “Again, all of that is subject to whether we’re in the throes of a pandemic.”

The Assembly bill requires the state Treasury to appropriate funds for early voting, though it leaves the size of that appropriation up to election officials.

County clerks have warned they may have trouble administering such a program absent improvements to the Statewide Voter Registration System.

During the primary, the SVRS experienced a litany of technical issues, including frequent crashes, unsolicited registration changes and a bug that left some voters’ apartment numbers off their ballots.

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