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Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold). (Photo: Assembly Majority Office).

Assembly clears bill allowing overseas residents to vote in state races

By Nikita Biryukov, June 25 2021 12:31 pm

The Assembly advanced a bill allowing New Jerseyans living overseas to vote in federal and state elections regardless of whether they intend to return to the state.

“We want to guarantee that all citizens of the United States who are eligible to vote can do so in our federal elections,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold), its prime sponsor. “Those who are not currently living in our country, but are citizens deserve to be heard in our elections because their lives are impacted even if they are not living in New Jersey on Election Day.”

The bill, which was approved in a 49-25 vote that fell along party lines, was amended in the Assembly Budget Committee earlier this week to remove provisions allowing New Jerseyans living overseas to vote in local elections.

The earlier language drew no votes from Republican members of the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.

The bill would do away with a state form asking overseas voters whether they intend to return to the United States. Currently, a such voters must fill out a questionnaire that asks whether they’re certain about when or if they would return to America.

American citizens board abroad who would otherwise be eligible to vote can do so if their parent or spouse were eligible to vote in the U.S. before leaving the country.

Under existing law, New Jerseyans living overseas are allowed to vote only in federal elections so long as they were last registered to vote — or last eligible to register — in New Jersey, are not registered to vote elsewhere and can prove their U.S. citizenship.

The Senate is expected to hear the measure at its June 30 voting session.

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