With little fanfare and no public testimony, the Assembly State and Local Government Committee approved a package of three bills today that would shield the home addresses of elected officials and political candidates in New Jersey.
Committee Chair Anthony Verrelli (D-Hopewell) said during the committee meeting that the bills, modeled after similar legislation protecting the home addresses of judges, are designed to keep lawmakers safe from potential attacks.
“Given the number of high profile attacks on public officials and their families, such as the recent attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband … I think there are a couple of bills here that are worth hearing and considering,” he said. “It’s a ‘Privacy Package,’ I like to call it.”
In July 2020, a gunman found the North Brunswick home of U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas and murdered her son, an incident that prompted calls both in New Jersey and nationally to better protect judges’ personal information. Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill safeguarding New Jersey judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials in November 2020, while a similar bill may be on its way to passage through Congress after much delay.
The bills approved in committee today extend many of those same protections to a wide variety of politicians in New Jersey.
The main bill, A4094, broadly prohibits the disclosure of the home addresses of elected officials and candidates, and two other bills remove requirements that elected officials reveal their home addresses in financial disclosure statements. The former passed through Senate committee in October, while the latter two are both newer and had not come before legislators until today.
Under the primary bill, an “elected official” is defined as “any person holding elective public office which, under the State Constitution or by law, is filled by the registered voters of a jurisdiction at an election, including a person appointed, selected or otherwise designated to fill a vacancy in such office, but does not mean an official of a political party”; the same protections are extended to candidates for those offices.
That appears to include a variety of officeholders, including state legislators, county officials, local officials, and county party committeemembers (who, despite being party officials, are directly elected by voters). Amendments to the bill clarify that addresses will remain available to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission for residency verification purposes.
The bills have been subject to criticism that shielding public officials’ addresses reduces transparency and makes it harder to hold politicians accountable. But the committee room today was free of any public comment, and all three bills were passed unanimously.